The Infinite Zenith

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DOOM Eternal: The Ancient Gods Part I and Weathering The Coming Storm

“Improvise, adapt and overcome” –Clint Eastwood, Heartbreak Ridge

After defeating the Khan Maykr, the Doom Slayer inadvertently given the dæmons a chance to continue their incursions into all dimensions. To combat this threat, the Doom Slayer and Samuel Hayden enlists help from the UAC to liberate a being known as the Seraphim. After locating the Seraphim’s containment unit at the Atlantica facility, the Doom Slayer learns that Samuel Hayden is the Seraphim, and moreover, is suffering from a transfiguration curse which can only be countered with a Life Sphere located in the Blood Swamps. Although the Doom Slayer is able to passes the Trial of Maligog and secures the sphere, he chooses to destroy it instead and retrieves a Life Sphere holding the Dark Lord’s essence: if the Dark Lord is resurrected and defeated while possessing a corporeal form, then the dæmons outside of Hell will also be obliterated. Returning to Urdak, the Doom Slayer fights his way to the Luminarium with the aim of reviving the Dark Lord. However, the Seraphim confronts him, and succumbs to transfiguration, rendering him a monster that the Doom Slayer subsequently defeats. The Father appears and teleports the Seraphim away before the Doom Slayer can kill him, and warns that once the Dark Lord is allowed to take a physical form, he cannot be banished again. Undeterred, the Doom Slayer continues anyways with the ritual, and is surprised to find that the Dark Lord greatly resembles him. This is the first expansion to DOOM Eternal‘s The Ancient Gods storyline, an extension of the story that provides players with additional content. As I jokingly stated, buying DOOM Eternal‘s Deluxe edition gave me the Reiko version of DOOM Eternal, which provides a more complete experience compared to the Koguma version (i.e. the standard edition) – now that I’ve finished the first part to The Ancient Gods, playing the additional missions has given me something that was quite unlike what DOOM Eternal‘s main campaign had provided and extended my enjoyment of the game in a way that justifies the costs of admission.

It goes without saying that The Ancient Gods‘ first part is brutally challenging – players are now denied access to the Crucible and its ability to one-hit kill anything, and super-heavy dæmons are much more common than they had been in DOOM Eternal‘s main game. Seeing a Doom Hunter spawn in together with a pair of Flameborne Barons or a possessed Tyrant fighting alongside a standard Tyrant is not uncommon, creating situations where players can be rapidly overwhelmed by foes before they even have a chance to react. New enemies further extend the challenge: Spirits can possess common enemies, turning them into unstoppable monsters, and even after these dæmons are killed, the spirits will linger and find a new host unless they are hit with the plasma rifle’s microwave beam. Spectre Whiplashes can sneak up on players and cannot be locked onto. Blood Maykrs are invulnerable to all attack thanks to their powerful energy shields, and have access to a range of attacks that hurt and impede the Doom Slayer. In the Blood Swamps, one segment of the game entails the Doom Slayer being surrounded by a damaging, impenetrable fog. However, while these mechanics can be intimidating to fight at first, much as how DOOM Eternal had sought to remind players that success was only found by making full use of one’s arsenal, The Ancient Gods‘ restrictions on players brings about new creativity. Since arenas now feature pillars that can absorb BFG orbs, and since the Crucible is gone, the Unmaykr and ice bomb become the Doom Slayer’s greatest asset in buying breathing room during the toughest fights and in the overwhelming encounters with super-heavy dæmons: six to seven shots from the Unmaykr, followed by a Blood Punch, and a few Super Shotgun blasts will fell a Flameborne Baron or Tyrant on short order. The Spirits mean the plasma rifle, an otherwise unremarkable weapon, suddenly becomes an asset to look after, since its microwave beam is the only tool to utilise against Spirits. The new aspects in The Ancient Gods forces players to re-evaluate their strategy, and consider how to make use of different combinations of weapons to find victory.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Of all the missions in The Ancient Gods‘ first part, the UAC Atlantica Base was the most familiar in design: it’s a facility set on an ocean platform, and the overall aesthetic of this mission was absolutely on point. Although it’s barely visible here, players will have noticed that I’m now rocking the Dæmonic Slayer skin. The cosmetics do not affect gameplay in any way, but admittedly, they are cool to have. The slickest looking skin in the whole of DOOM Eternal is probably the Gold Slayer skin, which is only unlocked of one beats the game on ultra-nightmare without any deaths at all.

  • This is a feat that is well above my skill level, so I’ve opted to take a more relaxed approach to things and focus on beating the game for the story experience: it is not lost on me that at my age, my reflexes are no longer what they were say, back when I was still a university student. Back then, I was speedier, but these days, I count on knowledge to help me react to and plan for situations instead. In this way, while DOOM Eternal is overwhelming, I never felt that I was at too much of a disadvantage, since I was able to think out solutions to problems.

  • The Ancient Gods gives players full access to the Doom Slayer’s upgraded arsenal and Prætor suit upgrades, plus all of the base runes and perks. A big part of DOOM Eternal had been slowly working towards a fully-upgraded set of gear over the missions: by completing challenges and using the weapons, one would gain a very solid understanding of what every weapon and mod’s purpose in combat is. To have everything handed to the player out of the gates would usually represent a disadvantage: this is analogous to life where people who grow into a good circumstance tend to do better than those who are handed that circumstance for free.

  • However, The Ancient Gods does this because it was meant for players who’ve already likely mastered the basics and have completed the base campaign. By giving players everything maxed out from the start, The Ancient Gods hints at the fact that they will be shown no mercy: right out of the gates, The Ancient Gods throws Flameborne Barons at the players like there’s no tomorrow, and while it was possible to trivially destroy them in DOOM Eternal with the Crucible, the Crucible is no longer available here, forcing players into what can be a protracted firefight against some of the game’s toughest foes, which can take a direct hit from even the BFG 9000.

  • This sounds intimidating, but players still have two important tools in their arsenal: the Unmaykr and a bit of creativity. The Unmaykr, being an automatic energy weapon that fires orbs of Argent Energy, is oft-overlooked in DOOM Eternal because the Crucible is better for killing a single powerful target, and the BFG 9000 is purpose-built for room-clearing. Arenas in The Ancient Gods are filled with pillars that block the BFG 9000, blocking the orb from travelling far and really doing damage. With other tools taken away, the Unmaykr takes on new importance now: freezing a super-heavy dæmon with the ice bomb, hitting it with six to seven rounds from the Unmaykr, and then following up with a super-shotgun blast or Blood punch is super effective. A Flameborne Baron will die to this combo, while the Tyrant and Arch-vile can then be killed with explosives or any combination of one’s choosing.

  • The intensely stormy weather of the UAC Atlantica mission brings to mind a memory from five years ago this day: back in 2016, Brave Witches had just started, and the remnants of Typhoon Songda slammed into the Pacific Northwest, coinciding with when an anime blog renowned for its emphasis on military-moé and fanservice, and whose author was from the Pacific Northwest region, suddenly stopped being active. This left me to write about Brave Witches at my own pace: that particular blogger didn’t like being corrected and supposedly deleted any comments linking to my blog, which had happened when one of their readers pointed out Saunders is fielding a C-5M Super Galaxy rather than a generic C-5 Galaxy. This is the mark of someone who always wanted to be right, and on this anniversary to Typhoon Songda, five years after that particular blog fell silent, there is much to be thankful for.

  • Today, the weather’s been pleasant, and over a delicious Baja grilled chicken melt whose flavours remind me of a hot summer’s day, I reflected on how I’ve been lucky enough to continue to be able write about and sharing the things I enjoy most. Back in The Ancient Gods, after the UAC Atlantica facility suffers from heavy damage, the storm effects become even more pronounced as fires are whipped about by the rains, and lightning splits the skies in two. It is amidst these ruins that the Doom Slayer pushes forwards to the next segments of the level, which is set on the sea floor: the Doom Slayer heads underwater with a set of aqua-lungs and enters the underwater facility: even the Doom Slayer doesn’t have the power to breathe underwater, but fortunately, oxygen pickups are common. Sharks can be seen in these segments, but as far as I can tell, they won’t bother players.

  • It turns out this was the segment of the game that the real-time ray-tracing was demoed with: in computer graphics, real-time ray-tracing means that rather than pre-rendering scenes, effects are computed on the fly by casting rays and continuously updating the visuals based on the results. Because rays operate on the same principals as those of photons, the resulting calculations are accurate to real life and create highly compelling visuals. My aging machine is unable to properly do ray-tracing (the GTX 1060 line can carry out the calculations for ray-tracing, but the card itself lacks to hardware to do them efficiently), so I am considering an upgrade once GPU prices start dropping.

  • The biggest surprise in the Atlantica facility was when a Tyrant spawned into one of the narrow hallways, and the doors behind me slammed shut. Normally, one could slice a Tyrant in half with the Crucible, and some Tyrants spawn in the arena encounters, where there’s space to dodge them. The corridors offer no space to manoeuver, and the lack of a Crucible means that one has no easy way out. However, this isn’t a problem for anyone with a bit of creativity about them: the Tyrant can be destroyed by freezing it, following up with six to seven rounds from the Unmaykr and then finishing off with a Blood Punch, before backing up and hammering the remains with rockets and super-shotgun rounds.

  • In this way, I finished the first mission, which contained a part where I had to fight Tyrants and two Marauders concurrently. The Ancient Gods‘ idea of a challenge was to take DOOM Eternal‘s most powerful foes and send them all after the player at once, so when I finished these arenas and earned my checkpoint, I was exhilarated. Throughout The Ancient Gods, I strove to find all of the collectibles: secret encounters provide cosmetics, and completing Slayer Gates provides access to Support Runes, which further provides a boost to the player’s abilities.

  • Speaking candidly, the Blood Swamps was probably my least favourite of The Ancient Gods‘ levels: it’s set in a dank, festering swamp where new foes are introduced. While some, like the giant Tentacles, can easily be destroyed, the most irksome of the new arrivals are called Spirits: they possess dæmon and increase their health, damage and attack speed by a considerable amount. Once possessed dæmons enter the battlefield, they can deal massive damage until they are killed, and then, players only have a short window of time to break out the plasma rifle’s microwave beam in an effort to finally destroy them, but this effort also leaves players vulnerable to attack.

  • The effect is surprisingly similar to that of Ghostbusters, and since the spirits are incorporeal, it makes sense to use an electromagnetic radiation-based weapon on them: the EMR the plasma rifle fires presumably disrupts whatever energy the spirit is composed of, overcoming the forces keeping it intact and forcibly dissipate it. However, just because there’s an explanation for how things work doesn’t make it any easier, and I found that in general, I would attempt to whittle down the other dæmons around first before taking on the possessed dæmon.

  • The overall aesthetic in the Blood Swamps is typical of what has been seen in the Dark Realm, being a hellish landscape of vast ancient constructs. The map is largely circular, and the Doom Slayer’s goal is to complete the Trials of Maligog, something that sounds like it was sourced straight from the World of Warcraft or Warhammer 40k legendariums. These trials proved immensely challenging and tested my skills in ways that even the trickiest fights in DOOM Eternal did not.

  • These exploding pustules are a new environment hazard introduced in the Blood Swamps: they expand when players get too close and shower the immediate regions in a flammable, noxious compound. Reading around, I’ve heard people speak of how The Ancient Gods was near-impossible to play, and how earlier this year, the gameplay was adjusted so encounters would be more balanced. Assuming this to be the case, it would explain why I was able to come out of some firefights alive where people a year ago could not – the number of dæmons have been dialled back some, for one.

  • Even with these adjustments, The Ancient Gods‘ first part is no walk in the park – it takes everything one’s got to keep up with the fights: the encounters themselves are doable in the Blood Swamps, but the trials themselves are borderline insane, even post-patch. Of note during these trials are the Carcasses. In DOOM Eternal, they could project a shield that deflects some attacks, and while these shields can be dropped by hitting it with plasma fire, the problem in the trials was the fact that these shields can impede movement. This can be circumvented with a Blood Punch, although large numbers of Carcasses can project enough shields to block off vital escape routes.

  • As such, the Blood Punch becomes an even more valuable asset than it had been in DOOM Eternal: capable of outright killing lesser dæmons, damage weak points and when upgraded, emits a powerful shockwave that damages nearby foes. For the first while, I also ran with the Desperate Punch support rune, which doubles the damage a Blood Punch deals when one’s health is below 75. I ultimately ended up unlocking all of the Support Runes through playing The Ancient Gods, and I found that Break Blast is probably the most useful, since it causes a shockwave to be emitted whenever a weak point on a dæmon is destroyed.

  • The Rune system in DOOM Eternal is not as sophisticated as that of DOOM‘s, but the addition of things like Secret Encounters and Slayer Gates more than makes up for this: in The Ancient Gods‘ first act, the Secret Encounters must be fully completed in order to unlock a special cosmetic, while the Support Runes are earned by completing Slayer Gates. Pushing through the Blood Swamps, one mechanic that threw me off was the fact that at some points, a thick fog will envelope players and deal damage. A spirit wolf will also appear, and the trick here is to follow said wolf until the fog dissipates.

  • Having grown accustomed to seeing the Maurader’s spirit wolf act as a deterrent for unnecessarily firing on its shield, I was a little confused and initial shot the wolf, which appears green rather than orange. DOOM Eternal does a reasonable job of walking players through new mechanics, but there are times when players must figure things out for themselves in order to advance, and one mechanic I found interesting was the fact that if one were to fall off a ledge or platform into an endless pit below, the game will allow players to start nearby with a small health or armour penalty, rather than second them all the way back to their last checkpoint.

  • Conversely, dying in a fight means restarting it: the trials were particularly challenging for this reason, since any mistake would undo one’s progress. It was fortunate that spawn patterns are fixed in these fights, and since they are deterministic, it means that over time, one could learn these patterns and formulate a strategy for beating them in the most efficient way possible. Highly dedicated players have shown what the combination of memorising certain patterns and developing a profound understanding of game mechanics can do: in some impressive videos, players can do things that come closer to replicating what the Doom Slayer can pull off in lore than anything I could do.

  • The last challenge players face in the Blood Swamps is Trial of Maligog proper; the Doom Slayer fights a floating eyeball protected by a metal cube, and once enough damage is done, the eyeball becomes stunned, allowing it to be punched into the shield containing the artefact the Doom Slayer needs to advance. The cubes must be punched from a specific point on the outside within a timeframe, otherwise, the eyeball rises back into the air and must be disabled anew. I found the Ballista was most useful for this, and numerous Pinkies and Hell Knights that spawn will be a distraction, making it imperative to manage one’s targets accordingly.

  • The Holt gave my rig no shortage of troubles: while it’s a beautifully-designed area reminiscent of Silvermoon Forest in World of Warcraft, for one reason or another, my machine kept blue-screening here. I ended up discovering that my memory pool settings were modified (probably after a driver update), and the game was attempting to access more VRAM than I had available. This in turn created problems for my machine. I ended up identifying the issue after realising that my custom settings were unchanged, and after selecting this, The Ancient Gods gave me no further problems.

  • The fact that my now eight-and-a-half-year old machine is still able to run DOOM Eternal smoothly is an encouraging sign, although the fact that the CPU utilisation is consistently 100 percent means that current-generation games are requiring more processing power than I’ve got. This machine’s had a very impressive run: when I originally built it, I intended it to be used for playing the most intensive games of the time (Battlefield 4 and Crysis 3). The fact that it has held out admirably for everything up to and including DOOM Eternal is a sign that I spec’ed out this build quite nicely back then.

  • As such, I intend to hang onto this machine for at least a little bit longer (say, until I settle into the new place a little): for older games and general computing, the rig still runs perfectly. Moreover, since I am in software development, I have two extra MacOS machines floating around, and while they’re not spec’ed for gaming, they run fine, as well. For now, I think I’m okay to continue on with The Ancient Gods‘ second part: after the aforementioned fine-tuning of video settings, the blue screens appear to have subsided, and indeed, I had no more issues continuing on through the Holt.

  • Like the Blood Swamps, the Holt challenges players to every fibre of their being by throwing everything DOOM Eternal has at the player. This third and final mission of The Ancient Gods‘ first part introduces the Blood Maykr, which are corrupted Maykrs protected by an energy shield immune to the Doom Slayer’s entire arsenal. They will, however, lower their shields to attack, and when their shields are down, a single headshot from the heavy cannon or Ballista will be enough to take it out of the fight permanently. On death, Blood Maykrs drop ammunition, so they’re a great way of topping off after a fight.

  • The challenge that Blood Maykrs add to DOOM Eternal is the fact that their attacks can slow players down, and in a firefight with fast-movers, this can be a death sentence. Thus, players must decide whether or not to avoid the Blood Maykrs and clear the arena out first, or wait for the Blood Maykrs to drop their shields and strike them, but at the expense of leaving oneself open to attack from other foes. There is no right or wrong way to approach this problem: as long as it works for the individual, this is all that counts.

  • On an unrelated note, my copy of Yama no Susume: Official Design Works arrived in the mail today. This artbook book originally released in December 2018, and was re-printed in May 2019 and May 2021. However, its popularity made it near impossible to purchase: I ended up paying an arm and a leg for this artbook, although the book is worth the price of admissions for Yama no Susume fans (it provides unparalleled insight into the design and aesthetic choices in both the characters and settings). The artbook covers everything right up until season three, and back in 2019, I heard that Yama no Susume is also getting a fourth season that is supposed to air somewhere in 2022.

  • Throwing a possessed Tyrant at players, on top of a Tyrant and a Doom Hunter, exemplifies how The Ancient Gods‘ first act can be seen as overwhelming. I beat this fight by focusing on taking out the normal Tyrant out first using the ice bomb/Unmaykr combo, then dealt as much damage as I could to the possessed Tyrant, destroyed the Doom Hunter’s sled by means of two consecutive Blood Punches, and then pounded it with remote detonation rockets, capitalising on the blast radius to also damage the Tyrant as it drew near.

  • While challenging, the fight is not insurmountable, and here, I hit the Spirit with the plasma rifle’s microwave beam: with no more foes around, it became a matter of simply firing the beam until the Spirit dissipated, bringing what was probably the toughest fight yet to an end. The Holt also has two areas where there are Blood Punch pickups available, and it becomes very clear as to why these are needed: hordes of dæmons appear, and while they’re not super-heavies, their numbers can be overwhelming. The fact that Blood Punch pickups are available means having a chance to really let loose and punch everything to pieces.

  • With the rest of the map cleared out, and every secret collected, I thus walked into the final area of the game. After being met with health pickups and a fresh power supply for the BFG, I knew that I was in for a fight. BFG pickups are considerably rarer in The Ancient Gods, but I never once ran below a single shot for the BFG 9000 (or 30 shots for the Unmaykr): by looking ahead and planning out my fights, I was able to make my way through most areas without needing to rely heavily on these weapons. As it turns out, the final fight of The Ancient Gods‘ first part is against Samuel Hayden himself: he’s become corrupted by the transfiguration curse and turns into a monster of sorts.

  • There are a few segments to the fight, and while the Samur Maykr is unshielded, he can freely teleport. The first section of the fight is straightforward, but the Samur Maykr will summon two Spirits to power his shields in the second phase, and again during the fourth phase. It takes patience and a sure aim to win this boss fight, which lasted longer than I had anticipated. I note here that the BFG 9000 and Unmaykr aren’t particularly useful, so players must fall back on everything they know in order to survive. Once the Samur Maykr is defeated, it would appear that I’ve weathered this storm successfully. Thus, The Ancient Gods‘ first part comes to an end, and I look forwards to starting the second act soon.

The sum of the new gameplay elements in The Ancient Gods creates an experience that is unfair, utterly frustrating, and paradoxically, superbly enjoyable – after DOOM Eternal, players feel accomplished at having beaten the latest DOOM instalment, and had The Ancient Gods opted to go with a more conventional route, players would have no trouble melting through everything. Instead, by adding new elements, The Ancient Gods completely throws players off. Fights with Spirits and Blood Maykrs completely alter the dynamic of each fight, forcing players to prioritise what part of the encounter should be dealt with first, and not knowing how many super-heavy dæmons each encounter will send a player’s way means being more cautious than before about using one’s ice bomb. The change in pacing is such that DOOM Eternal‘s developers outright state that this is designed to test players, and that it might even be necessary to step the game’s difficulty down to get a feel for things first. The rationale behind going in this direction for The Ancient Gods is therefore easy to spot: players who’ve mastered every last detail in DOOM Eternal are not looking for more of the same, and in this regard, The Ancient Gods delivers – it forces players to cultivate a new play-style and step out of their comfort zone in order to earn their victory. The Ancient Gods‘ first part was designed for the most die-hard fans of DOOM Eternal, and in offering something overwhelmingly challenging, it has succeeded in creating an all-new experience that sets the first set of expansion missions apart from the main campaign. While the missions were indeed difficult, unlike anything I’d faced in DOOM Eternal‘s main campaign, there was definitely a sense of pride from having beaten some of the most unfair fights to date, which includes fighting two Marauders at the same time, and a possessed Tyrant together with another Tyrant and Doom Hunter. Having now beaten the Samur Maykr, Samuel Hayden’s transfigured form, I’ll need to take a bit of a breather before continuing on to the second half of The Ancient Gods.

Battlefield 2042: A Reflection on the Open Beta

“This strength test is all about what Battlefield 2042 does to your computer, and not what your computer does to Battlefield 2042.” –J. Neilson, Forged in Fire

Entering the Battlefield 2042 open beta, the biggest question on my mind was whether or not my aging rig would even be able to run DICE’s latest Battlefield title at passable frame-rates. The minimum requirements had called for an Intel i5-6600k, which overall, has about a five percent edge in terms of performance over the nine year old i5-3570k I’m currently running. The open beta represented the best way to, without charge, test whether this CPU stood any chance of opening Battlefield 2042, and after I finished my preload in Tuesday night, I went about the remainder of my week as usual. When I was granted access to the open beta on Friday, I promptly opened my client after the day’s work hours ended, and immediately found myself faced with sluggish, choppy performance: after joining a match and parachuting over to the rocket hangar at capture point bravo, I came under fire from some enemy players. I ducked away into cover, then got the jump on one of my pursuers as they turned away, and after aiming down the M5A3’s iron sights, I dumped the magazine into my foe to earn my first kill of the beta. All of this happened at around 24 FPS, and it became clear to me that my eight-year-old machine had hit its limits. I subsequently headed over to a remote corner of the map, away from the combat, set all of the visual effects down to medium, and was met with a surprising result: Battlefield 2042 began running at a still-choppy, but playable 40-50 FPS (dropping to about 30 FPS on a small handful of moments). I thus finished my first match and went on to unlock a range of weapons to experiment with. During my play-testing, I found that my GTX 1060 was at around 60 percent usage, but my CPU was struggling the entire time in-game: the k-line of i5 processors have a feature called “Turbo Boost”, which kicks in whenever the CPU requires additional horsepower. The hardware automatically overclocks the CPU, raising the clock speed to give this extra performance while at the same time, keeping the assembly within safe temperatures. However, running Turbo Boost for prolonged periods still places a bit of a strain on a CPU that is eight years old, and it is clear that either this build of Battlefield 2042 still needs to be optimised before launch, or the time might be approaching where I will need to build a new rig. While my machine did encounter difficulties with the Battlefield 2042 beta (I suffered two blue screens in total), I was otherwise very impressed that the beta ran at all, with the frame rates that it did. Overall, my rig survived: this is equivalent to a blade taking on a few rolls during the infamous strength test on Forged in Fire, but otherwise, remained intact. My machine passes the strength test, although whether or not it will KEAL is a different matter entirely (albeit one that I’ll have to wait until after launch to find out about).

Because of periodic performance drops, my own experiences with Battlefield 2042‘s open beta are not complete or wholly representative of my performance in the game. Lag led me to miss shots, fail to respond quickly enough in a firefight, or even waste ammunition on what I thought was a player (but was actually a player model that hadn’t been updated properly). In spite of this, the beta was still immensely enjoyable. The first thing I noticed was that the scale of battle is larger than ever. It makes sense as to why Battlefield 2042 would require more CPU power to fully experience: the chaos of 128-player maps is a massive step up from the 64-player maps of previous games, corresponding with an increase in the processing power needed to calculate and keep track of everything. Moreover, gun-play was satisfying, and weapons handled very consistently: after getting used to their recoil patterns and learning to position myself better in firefights, I began rediscovering my old enjoyment of tap-firing down a distant foe. Every kill is satisfying, and Battlefield 2042 appears to have altered things so the kill system is more similar to Battlefront II’s, where dealing appreciable damage to an enemy is rewarded the same amount of points as scoring the kill itself. Similarly, the movement system was relatively smooth: features from Battlefield 1 and V, like crouch-sliding and vaulting return, creating more options for moving around the map and escaping otherwise deadly situations. The core mechanics of Battlefield 2042 appear to work well for the game. However, it is clear that this is a three-month old build: the UI is unwieldy, and critical features did not work in the beta. I was unable to issue squad commands, thank players for reviving me or open the map at all. These issues are something the team indicates that the release build will address. The specialist system is a larger issue for Battlefield 2042: during my games, I noticed that teamwork was practically non-existent: the lack of dedicated medics and support players meant no one was topping off health or ammunition, and there was no incentive to do so. The lack of restrictions on weapons and gadgets allows a sniper to constantly top off their own ammunition, and assault players can easily heal themselves. One possible fix for this would simply be to restrict gadgets to certain specialisations, and similarly, every specialist should have access to one unique weapon class, and subsequently, there can be all-class weapons, much as how Battlefield 3 and 4 had done so. The specialist system is ingrained in the game, but if these minor adjustments aren’t too tricky to implement, their addition would define specialist roles more clearly and return team-play elements to the game. One element that currently is a deal-breaker is player visibility: this was an issue in Battlefield V and favoured campers. Battlefield 2042 has not addressed this issue, but this time, players can blend into their surroundings even when actively moving. Moreover, the lack of clear team indicators introduces new problems: I found myself shooting at teammates in some firefights because there hadn’t been anything to show they were teammates. While I’m very much in the minority who thinks this way, I find that the return of 3D spotting would be helpful. Players should always be able to spot for themselves, and then recon players can spot for their teams as a class perk. The inclusion of 3D spotting would reward players for thinking tactically ahead of a firefight, and force players to consider how they move around a map, as well. Overall, while Battlefield 2042 shows promise, it is still early to be determining if DICE has properly learned from the aftermath of Battlefield V.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • If there were a single screenshot to sum up my experiences with Battlefield 2042‘s open beta, this would be it: a stunning view of the Guiana Space Centre as a storm rolls in. Battlefield 2042‘s theme is climate change and its impact on conflict, but unlike its predecessors, which featured a single-player campaign, Battlefield 2042 will launch without a campaign, with its story being told by the maps’ design. The large-scale effects of climate change means that Battlefield 2042‘s maps can be set across the world and need not be tied to any one region, as with previous Battlefield maps.

  • The first kill I got in Battlefield 2042 came with the M5A3 assault rifle, a fictionalised version of the SIG MCX series that is chambered for the 6.8mm SIG cartridge. I ended up choosing a different screenshot for my first kill because that moment had been too dark, and because I am a little superstitious in games, I believe that I’ll have a better experience in a given open beta if I get my first kill before my first death. In practise, the M5A3 has a good firing rate and high accuracy, especially when equipped with the extended barrel, Cobra vertical grip and the Maul Hybrid 1.5-3x sights.

  • I didn’t have too many opportunities to play armoured vehicles in the open beta; pilots were being much too aggressive, and the lack of teamwork meant that shoulder-fired anti-air weapons weren’t too effective at taking them down. Land-air balance has always been an issue in Battlefield games: good pilots can single-handedly control entire matches, and some design choices in previous Battlefield games, like the Ilya-Muromets, were downright broken. Modern settings means a wider range of anti-air options, and Battlefield 2042 will need to give players more options against air vehicles in order to balance things out.

  • The infantry combat is generally my favourite aspect of a given Battlefield game, and here, I help the team to defend against capture, capitalising on the high-ground to mow down a player running along the catwalk below. Orbital is the map featured in the beta, and despite being a very large, open map, there’s enough variety in the map design so all weapons can be effective, depending on where one is. The M5A3 is probably the most versatile weapon available in the open beta, having enough accuracy to pick off enemies at range (especially if one tap fires and runs the right attachments) and enough firing rate to react quickly to someone at close quarters.

  • During matches, the rocket on the launchpad will sometimes launch, creating a particularly impressive visual spectacle for players, comparable to the rocket launch of both Five Centimeters per Second and Hathaway’s Flash. I’ve seen my favourite Battlefield YouTubers attempt to board the rocket, and they ended up phasing through the geometry before learning that the rocket tops out at an altitude of five kilometres. This resulted in many laughs. For me, I didn’t have anything quite so exhilarating: I witnessed two rocket launches during my run of the Battlefield 2042 open beta, and after dying to a sniper during my first launch, I decided to take cover so I could view the second launch in peace.

  • Battlefield 2042‘s hitmarker system is quite unlike anything I’d previously seen: they appear to be much more subtle and difficult to spot. However, every kill was satisfying to earn, especially those longer-range shots. One nifty feature about Battlefield 2042 is that the Maul Hybrid optic has an integral red dot sight attached to the main optic, making it easy to switch between 1.5x magnification and 3x magnification with the push of a button. The dynamic attachment system reminds me a great deal of how Crysis handles things, and I imagine in the completed game, players will unlock multiple attachments, and then pick four they want to carry into battle at any given time.

  • Since we’re now back in the modern era, a wide selection of effective LMGs are finally available again. The only LMG available in the open beta was the LCMG, a fictionalised version of the Knight’s Armament Company LAMG; in reality, this was meant to be a lightweight and modular LMG that could adapt to a variety of situations. Despite its promise, the LAMG never saw any military use, although I have seen this weapon before in The Division 2, where it is called the Stoner LAMG and was one of my favourite weapons in the endgame, at least until the Hunter’s Fury gear-set became available.

  • I’ve always had a fondness for LMGs in Battlefield: early in every Battlefield game I play, I am not so familiar with the recoil patterns on assault rifles, and tend to waste my ammunition hitting air in firefights. However, with their larger ammunition capacity (offset by a longer reload time), LMGs are a bit more forgiving and allow me to lay down sustained fire. More rounds in the air means an increased probability something will hit my foe (i.e. “spray and pray”). The LCMG can be customised with AP rounds to increase its efficacy against light vehicles: one of the stranger design choices in Battlefield 2042 is the fact that weapons can have different ammo types. While cool in theory, I’ve actually never felt any need to switch out the standard ammunition.

  • Here, I score a kill with the Kriss Vector, known as the K30 in-game. The K30 resembles its counterparts from other games in that it has a high rate of fire and therefore, is particularly well-suited for CQC. The base K30 comes with a 20-round magazine, but DICE was nice enough to provide the extended magazine option, which allows for a total of 40 rounds per magazine. I ended up scoring a pair of kills in the rocket hangar with it while making my way to the top. The scale of the buildings in Battlefield 2042 are immense, and capture point bravo is a particularly fun one to fight over, since the rooftop is open to helicopters, and the team holding it must be cautious of players sneaking in from below, as well.

  • Ribbons finally make a return in Battlefield 2042: DICE had gotten rid of them in Battlefield V, but they had been present in earlier Battlefield games as an incentive for teamplay, as well as rewarding players for doing well. I’ve had a fondness for ribbons, since accumulating them gave insight into what kind of tendencies I had as a player. Medals were also fun to earn, although I also remember that the big frustration with them comes from being killed while attempting to take a screenshot after earning one: because of the way my key mappings are set up, I need to either take my hand off the mouse or keyboard in order to capture said screenshot.

  • While I’d never been effective with anti-armour weapons in Battlefield 3 and 4, after Battlefield 1 and V, I’ve become much more comfortable with equipment in this category: a little bit of teamwork can mean that, even on foot, vehicles are not unstoppable threats. Battlefield 2042‘s brings back the M2 Carl Gustav Recoilless Rifle from Bad Company 2 as the main anti-vehicle option. It has a very slow reload, but can devastate light vehicles and even take a third of a tank’s health away in a single shot. I imagine that more anti-vehicle weapons, like the RPG-7, SMAW and AT4 could be available in the full game.

  • Here, I score a kill on someone calling themselves “Shizuka_hiratsuk”, evidently named after Oregairu‘s Shizua Hirasuka, using the DM7 (the Daniel Defense DDM4 V7 in real life) marksman rifle. This semi-automatic rifle reaches out a little further than the M5A3 and is a solid precision weapon that fits my play-style. Although the ACOG sight and its chevron reticule was a bit tough to use, the weapon can nonetheless deal excellent damage at range, making it a solid option. Players with anime names have always stood out to me in multiplayer first person shooters, especially when they get the upper hand over me.

  • However, this never happened once in Battlefield 2042: normally, after dying to another player, their name is clearly displayed for me to check out, and Battlefield also indicates how many times we’ve gotten one another. However, the UI meant I never got around to seeing names in prominence, and moreover, I never found myself antagonised by a single player because of the fact that maps are so large. Rather than facing 32 players, I’m now facing 64, so it’s less likely to run into the same person twice. The larger player count has had one additional side-effect on my gaming, and I’m actually a lot more relaxed when I’m being beaten by different people.

  • I’m not anywhere as competitive as I was seven years ago, which was when I was really getting into Battlefield 3, but a part of me still enjoys getting back players who got me. In one entertaining moment during the beta, I was killed by a sniper at capture point alpha. Realising he was chilling on one of the geodesic domes, I promptly changed my kit out for the SWS-10 and managed to shoot him in the head. I’m rocking the recon specialist here, which comes with a spotting drone, C4 and my personal favourite, a passive radar that indicates whether or not there are any hostiles nearby.

  • The assault specialist is equipped with a grappling hook for getting around quickly: like the Q-Claw from Agent Under Fire, the grappling hook is a fantastic tool for ascending buildings and gaining a vantage point quickly. If memory serves, the assault specialist’ perk is being able to have more mobility compared to the others. This high-mobility play-style means that one might actually be better served running with a PDW or shotgun for close-quarters dominance. On the topic of Agent Under Fire, Thanksgiving Long Weekend has proven to be the perfect time to dust off the old GameCube and enjoy some old-fashioned humans vs AI bots on Town and Castle. Unlike yesterday’s blue skies and sunshine, today’s been grey and snowy, making it perfect for gaming, and since the global health crisis kicked off, I’ve been doing a lot more with the GameCube, so we actually ended up faring moderately well against the AI bots on maximum difficulty.

  • Had the open beta come out in October 2018, I probably would’ve been happier for it: by October, the Xamarin project had been deemed ready for release, pending a few bug fixes and tests. Conversely, back in September, the Xamarin project was in dire straits; there’d been a large disagreement about what constituted as HIPAA compliance, and it was put forth that HIPAA compliance demanded a 26-digit alphanumeric code that was given to users on sign in. In the end, the firm’s CEO stepped in, determined that the 6-digit code I was proposing was still compliant and allowed me to continue with my work. The resulting sign-in and onboarding became an order of magnitude simpler for my troubles, and I returned home just in time to spend a few days on the Rotterdam map in Battlefield V‘s open beta.

  • My experiences in Battlefield V‘s beta led me to pick the game up in November 2018, and by that time, I’d received an offer for a new iOS developer position, allowing me to leave behind my first start-up’s woes and its connection to the computational oncology firm in the US. That time period was characterised by relief to be setting aside work that was beginning to tax me more than it excited me. Out of vain curiosity, I decided to take a look to see what became of the app I finished, but as it turns out, the app has been stricken from both the App Store and Play Store.

  • While the computational oncology firm has advertised that mobile app would be a major part of their ecosystem, it is a little disappointing to see no advancements on the mobile side of things in the past three years. Reminiscing about these moments makes me immensely thankful that with the Battlefield 2042 open beta, I am afforded time to enjoy the beta without worrying about whether or not the JSON responses coming from the backend would arbitrarily change without warning: this time around, my main concern was whether nor not my machine could even run the open beta, speaking to its age.

  • One of the most exhilarating and terrifying moments I had during the entire beta was when I saw my first tornado: I had spawned on a squad mate, but the tornado changed direction and immediately headed for us. The tornadoes that strike Battlefield 2042‘s maps appear to be EF0 (or EF1s at most): while they’re capable of lifting vehicles into the air and easily carry players, the tornadoes don’t do any appreciable damage to the map’s buildings, creating a bit of inconsistency (a tornado capable of throwing vehicles would also uproot trees and shred roofs from houses, which is EF3-level). However, as a gameplay mechanic, I’ll let this one slide and note that here, as I seemingly glide towards my death, a bolt of lightning also strikes very close to my position, creating a surreal moment.

  • Lightning strikes in Battlefield 2042 have EMP effects and will disable vehicles, as well as scramble the player’s HUD; this is a clever effect that speaks to the dangers of how relying on complex electronic systems can leave one in a tough spot should said systems go down. Fortunately for me, I ended up steering myself away from the tornado, which also changed course at the last second, and after landing on the ground, I immediately set about trying to help my team turn around a losing match even though it’d been too late.

  • In a different match, I’ve switched over to the support specialisation and are running with the PBX-45, a copy of the LWRC SMG 45 that actually proved to be unexpectedly effective and fun to use. The SMG 45 was first introduced in 2015 and entered production in 2019. Firing .45 ACP rounds, the SMG 45 is a newer weapon and accordingly, has not appeared in many games. Battlefield 2042‘s PBX-45 marks the first time the SMG 45 appears in Battlefield (previously, the SMG 45 was in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare as the Striker 45).

  • In the days of Battlefield 3 and 4, PDWs and SMGs were hipfire machines whose small size made them laser-accurate and perfectly suited for close-quarters combat. In fact, during my Battlefield 3 days, once I unlocked the MP5K, it became my default go-to weapon: with the laser sight and extended magazines. Battlefield 1 featured SMGs as the primary for the assault class, and by Battlefield V, SMGs were the default weapon for medics. Although their applications have changed, all Battlefield SMGs (and PDWs) retain excellent hipfire performance.

  • The PBX-45 is a remarkably entertaining weapon to use, and one more thing that I’m particularly fond of its the reload animation: if one isn’t reloading from empty, the operator will pull the old magazine out and swap it for a new one, but keep the old magazine in hand to stow it. However, if reloading from empty, the old magazine is discarded. Cool reload animations have been a part of Battlefield since Hardline, where DICE really began having fun with the reload animations, but in Battlefield 1 and V, DICE upped their game by providing unique reload animations based on a weapon’s ammunition state.

  • I managed to capture this beauty of a lightning bolt while a tornado was tearing up the far side of the map here. In reality, taking stunning lightning photos is a skill and requires familiarity with the techniques. Professional weather photographers like Warren Faidley have taken some of the most iconic pictures around, and as a child, I was always fond of checking out weather books from the library to admire these images. In games like Battlefield 2042, lightning lingers on the screen for a fraction of a second longer than it does in reality, and that means so long as I hit the screenshot button quickly enough, I’ll have myself nice photo.

  • The weather patterns in Battlefield 2042 aren’t anywhere nearly as disruptive as the snowstorms of Battlefield V, and while visibility lowers whenever a storm blows in, it’s not bad enough to interfere with gameplay: even though the screen does get covered in water droplets from the rain, visibility isn’t severely degraded. Having said this, the tornado can be quite disruptive, and once the novelty wears off, it’ll become something that can negatively impact a match for players: the tornado locks down a large section of the map, and under the right circumstances, might even disrupt things enough for the other team to mount a comeback, meaning that the outcome of a given match can come down to chance rather than skill.

  • Here, I quickly reload the G57 pistol after drawing it and scoring a kill to save myself from certain death. Modern shooters tend to provide players with a sidearm as their secondary, a weapon to switch over to it when their primary runs dry. I imagine that the G57 is modelled after the Heckler and Koch Glock G17 (evidenced by the grooves on the slide’s rear. Battlefield has historically treated the Glock line of pistols as a fast-firing, moderately hard-hitting and reliable pistol. Pistols can be customised on the fly, as well, although during the open beta, there was no option to attach a suppressor.

  • While I only had six hours in the open beta, I did put in enough time to unlock the M44 Revolver, which looks like the Model 44SS6 .44 Magnum. Unlike the G57, whose strength lies in its accuracy, ease-of-handling and rate of fire, the M44 kicks like a mule and hits like a truck, dealing massive damage when it lands a successful hit. During the height of my Battlefield days, I used to run with the MP-412: this revolver still dealt excellent damage, but had a slightly faster firing rate than the .44 Magnum, meaning it could be counted on in a pinch.

  • Altogether, I played twelve rounds of conquest during the open beta, and of these twelve rounds, I only won three of them. I’m not sure what the story is, but even though I was playing the objective each and every around, I was more likely to wind up on the losing team than the winning team. However, I will note that 12 games is too small a sample size to draw meaningful data from. During earlier Battlefield games, some days, I’ll go on the most ridiculous lucky streaks where I’d play three winning games in a row, and then after a break, come back to play two more victorious matches.

  • Then, on other days, I could go and play three losing matches in a row. The law of large numbers states that over time, my victories and losses will trend towards an average and approach 50 percent from either the left or the right. However, my tendency to play the objective meant that in general, I always won slightly more often than I lost. In Battlefield 2042, outside of determining if my machine could run the game at all, my other goal had been to try as much of the infantry firearms as I could. Because of the way the Battlefield 2042 beta worked, I was able to get a very good idea of what the different weapons handled like, and here, I’ve brought the LCMG back out.

  • Owing to the haste of my deployment, I dropped right into a firefight and didn’t have time to change out my optics or underbarrel options. In spite of this, I managed to score a few kills while pressing forwards with my team into the hangar. In modern military shooters, I’m fond of equipping optics right away, since having a red dot sight or ACOG can make target acquisition much easier. However, I found that in moments where I only had iron sights, I was having considerably less trouble with them than I had before. This is like a consequence of the fact that playing so much Battlefield 1 and V in the past five years has meant that I’ve become accustomed to using iron sights for tracking targets.

  • Back in Battlefield 1, most weapons were actually better off without the crude sights available in a WWI setting, and some weapons had highly clean posts that made finding targets straightforward. Similarly, some weapons in Battlefield V had decent iron sights that could be used without much trouble. Since iron sights no longer bother me, when I play through other games like Call of Duty, I can be comfortable trading off the sights for other attachments. Of course, where sights are available, I’ll still use them: here, I’m running the PBX-45 with the K8 holographic sight, which is clear and easy to use.

  • Just for kicks, I ended up switching over to my M5 Recoilless rifle and shot a player with a rocket, since they were out of my PBX-45’s effective range. Had I attempted to engage them at this range, they would’ve noticed me throwing rocks at them and ducked for cover. Conversely, by expending a M5 round on them, I was assured of the kill, which I’m sure would’ve been a shock. I used to do something similar in Battlefield 1: since the assault class’ SMGs didn’t have much reach, I would use the AT rocket gun to pick off foes that I couldn’t otherwise reach without alerting them to my intentions.

  • Here, I managed to headshot a player calling themselves Gryphin2004 (a Family Guy reference, perhaps?) using the PBX-45, at a range that I didn’t think the weapon would work at. This particular player had killed me several times in a row by camping in the building, and it was with great satisfaction I managed to get him back one before the match ended. There weren’t many frustrating moments during the beta, but if I had to name one, dying to this camper was one of them. I’ve long disliked players who camp, since it shows excessive concern for one’s KDR over the team results, and in fact, campers are only second to cheaters in my books, when it comes to players who shouldn’t be in the game.

  • Here, I managed to score a double kill with the M5 Recoilless Rifle on a tank below: by the end of the beta, I was right at home with the M5. Players also have access to an anti-air weapon similar to the FIM-92 Stinger, and while I never got much use out of these weapons, developers have indicated that to balance them, they might make them a one-hit kill against air vehicles. If this is true, this would be a boon for folks on the ground: air vehicles are an annoyance, and in every match I played, enemy pilots went unchallenged, while for the most part, pilots on my team were not anywhere nearly as effective. Knowing that anti-air weapons could swat them out of the skies in a single hit would force pilots to play more cautiously: aircraft are equipped with countermeasures, but they have a cooldown, so a part of the skill in flying would include knowing when to back out of a fight.

  • Out of curiosity’s sake, I also ended up giving the AK24 a shot. This weapon appears to be the AK-12, a modernised AK-47, and in Battlefield 2042, hits harder than the M5A3. On the flipside, it also has a much larger recoil: I found the weapon to be quite uncontrollable when the Maul Hybrid sights were equipped. On the other hand, the iron sights, K8 and Fusion Holo sights don’t accentuate the recoil too much, making them my preferred choices for combat. Overall, however, I did prefer the M5A3 over the AK24: the M5A3 is laser-beam accurate with the right attachments, and I’ve had success with this rifle at ranges I didn’t think possible: one of my most exciting moments was burst-firing down a foe at over a hundred metres with the M5A3.

  • My experiences in the beta suggests that weapons of Battlefield 2042 are going to handle in distinct ways, and then the attachments will further accentuate a weapon’s strengths (or mitigate its weaknesses). The ability to switch attachments out on the fly is actually a pretty clever mechanic, since players with foresight can add to their inventory the attachments that they feel will work for them, and then in between matches, they might be able to customise their inventory to fit a particular play-style. Unfortunately, because of where this beta was, no deeper customisations were shown.

  • Since DICE has advertised that Battlefield 2042 will have a deeper progression system than that of Battlefield 1 and V, I am hoping this translates to something that was more similar to that of Battlefield 3 or 4‘s: Battlefield 3 had the perfect amount of unlocks, while things in Battlefield 4 felt a bit overwhelming. Documentation from DICE indicates that players will have unlocked everything they need to be successful by level 100. At the time of writing, I have no idea how long this journey would take: with earlier games, it took me about a year to get everything unlocked, and this was assuming an average of two to three hours of play every week.

  • During one match, I spawned onto the hangar rooftop at capture point bravo and decided to equip the SWS-10 for some sharpshooting. This is the TRG M10 in real life, a bolt-action rifle manufactured by the Finish company SAKO. Chambered for the .308 Winchester round, the TRG M10 can also fire .300 Winchester Magnum and .338 Lapua Magnum rounds, as well: the M10 is an upgraded, modular design that was introduced in 2011, and one of its most noteworthy features is that the toolbox for changing out the rifle’s barrel, bolts and handguard is built into the weapon itself, allowing it to change between different calibres with ease.

  • In Battlefield 2042, veterans have reported that the sniping is a little off, but during moments where long-range shots connect, it is immensely satisfying: I managed to pick off foes on the ground below from up here, and it felt incredible to fire a shot, watch it sail over to the target and strike them in the brainpan. Unfortunately, Battlefield 2042 doesn’t display the distance a headshot was made from in its beta, but these shots were incredible to land. It took me a few shots to get a feel for how the SWS-10 handled, especially with respect to bullet velocity and drop, but one thing I did find strange was the fact that the weapon appears to already have a straight-pull bolt, removing the need to scope out and chamber a new round in after one round was fired.

  • In a later match, I ended up running into a player called “not_alexus_marie” and promptly pasted their pate several times into the ground: curiosity got the better of me after I collected these screenshots, and I’m now wondering if this is the small-time Twitch streamer from Illinois that I wasted so casually. Battlefield 2042‘s lack of scoreboard, and an unusual UI in the death screen meant that during this beta, I remember those whom I’ve felled more vividly than those who outfoxed me in combat. While some gaming journalists are suggesting that some players are already using cheats in the beta, I never once felt that my foes were using software to gain an unfair advantage over others. Any time I died was a consequence of my own lack of spatial awareness, poor positioning, or the fact that my reflexes are no longer what they used to be.

  • On occasions where players looked like they one-shotted me or shot me through walls, it became apparent that my aging hardware might’ve created that discrepancy. Indeed, when I began playing more cautiously, I found myself staring at the spawn screen with a much lower frequency, and here in the beta, I do not believe I’ve run into any cheaters during the course of my six hours. DICE has stated that Battlefield 2042 will use Easy Anti-Cheat, a well-known and robust system which, in conjunction with its in-game reporting system, and an implementation of both an IP and hardware ban, should be enough to deter cheaters, which have run rampant in games like Battlefield V and Call of Duty: Warzone.

  • Cheaters were responsible for my increasing disinterest in Battlefield V, more so than any other shortcomings of that title (whether it be the poor enemy visibility, inconsistent TTK/TTD decisions, decision not to visit iconic WWII Theatre in favour of obscure ones), and what was baffling was the fact that players on my own team would adamantly refuse to acknowledge that they were playing against a cheater, despite said cheater going 120-1 five minutes into the match. In this day and age, the desire to cheat in a multiplayer game is a consequence of a desire for notoriety, for a bit of extra internet fame.

  • By yesterday evening, I’d become quite familiar with all of the open beta’s weapons and had a passable idea of how the mechanics had worked, enough to be scoring consistently well. In the last full game I played, I ended up 19-19 despite having fallen into a 2-10 hole early in the game. The team I was with was still defeated, but my own personal performance suggests that, if the time allows for it, I could probably still have a good time with Battlefield 2042‘s main game modes. Towards the end, I began running with the engineer specialisation, which brings with it an automated turret for locking down certain areas by creating a distraction.

  • During the chaos of one firefight, I ended up accidentally switching off my M5A3 for a SWS-10, and since players were swarming the capture point, I was able to pick a few off with headshots. Observant readers and players who participated in the open beta alike will have noticed that Battlefield 2042 has sectors that must both be held before it can be considered to be under one team’s control. This approach would be a fantastic way to improve team play, although speaking truthfully, the lack of a working command system meant that in the end, I lone-wolfed things for the entire duration of the beta.

  • While my approach means that any squad will make short work of me, I was a little surprised to find individual players running around the map without any support, such as this individual here. I found them on their lonesome and proceeded to make short work of them before they even got a single shot off. In a squad with good communications, as soon as one member is fired upon, the squad can move in to defend one another, secure the area and revive anyone that was downed. I’ve only ever played Battlefield once with friends during an office team building event five years earlier, but I still remember how effective we were: we topped the scoreboard, was the best squad and ended up carrying our team to victory despite none of us being particularly exceptional FPS players.

  • One of the biggest challenges I faced in the beta was with the gunner seats in vehicles: they were extremely jittery, and it was nearly impossible to get a good shot off on a target. During one of my final matches, I spawned into an Apache attack helicopter’s gunner seat and manned the 30 mm cannon with gusto, helping to clear the ground for my team in a round my team had no hope in heck of winning. I’ve never been much of a pilot myself, but I do have a fondness for manning the gunner seats in vehicles. With a good pilot, I am able to really do damage in the gunner’s seat.

  • It suddenly strikes me that the more recent Battlefield releases have all coincided with a milestone in my life: Battlefield 4 launched after I graduated from the Bachelor of Health Sciences programme, and Battlefield 1 released after I finished graduate school and begun the transition over into industry. Battlefield V launched right as I got a new job, and Battlefield 2042‘s launch date is going to be very close to my possession date. At the time of writing, there’s a few more things I have to tend to ahead of this, but I am very excited about things.

  • Truth be told, I am surprised that things had happened as quickly as they did; even back in August, I’d only been house hunting and never thought that a property meeting all of my requirements would become available on the market this soon. A lot can happen over the course of a year, and while 2021 saw its share of challenges, the year also saw numerous positive changes. I’ve been incredibly lucky in many regards, and this is something I am immensely thankful for. If I were making decisions on the basis of emotion alone (as opposed to reason and logic), Battlefield 2042 would be an easy purchase simply for the fact that it coincides with a major life event, much as how Battlefield 41 and V did.

  • However, this isn’t how I roll: instead, whether or not I end up buying Battlefield 2042 will be determined by how well the game runs at launch and whether or not Battlefield Portal fulfils my requirements. Provided the game can run well, and Portal offers what I am looking for, then Battlefield 2042 will be worth the cost of admissions. The game has most certainly been fun during the open beta, and here, a solitary kill with the LCMG marks the last one I got before the servers shut down; I had just started a match, but it was getting late, so I decided to call it quits after getting one more kill.

Having put a total of six hours into the Battlefield 2042 beta, the main deciding factor now as to whether or not I’ll pick up the game after it launches, or if I will wait, is determined by a few things. The first is whether or not DICE does indeed optimise the game so it’s not pushing my CPU to 100 percent utilisation for extended periods. I’ve heard that people with more recent CPUs still experienced the same issues, so it is possible that building a new PC might not be the solution to this. Waiting to hear from early-adopters who buy the game will allow me to gain more information before making a decision. Similarly, the open beta has only shown one game mode (Conquest) on one map (Orbital). Battlefield 2042‘s biggest feature is Battlefield Portal, a full-scale sandbox mode that allows players to have full control in designing games for themselves. On first blush, this mode appears even more enticing and immersive than Battlefield 2042 proper. Depending on what is available and possible within Battlefield Portal, this alone could be worth the price of admissions (assuming my machine can run things smoothly). Finally, the open beta evidently is an incomplete build of the game that is not production-ready: numerous issues do need to be addressed, from UI layout, functionality and performance before DICE can have a smooth, satisfying launch. Historically, DICE’s records with launches are mixed: Battlefield 4 was a disaster, but Battlefield 1 was exemplary. Overall, my position now is simple: I will wait until around the holiday season to determine whether or not Battlefield 2042 joins my library. Building a new PC is straightforward enough, and my current machine still runs Battlefield 2042 in a satisfactory manner, so the main deciding factor now is going to be primarily seeing how well Portal works in practise. The prospect of being able to play bots on a private session to experiment with outrageous scenarios (like how well a single M1A2 fares against 20 Tiger I tanks), or join servers with outlandish game modes designed for relaxation rather than competition, is most enticing. Similarly, I am getting up there in the years to be squaring off against youth with faster reflexes: the ol’ fingers and brain no longer move as quickly as they did when I was a university student. Gone are the days where I could survive a firefight against an entire squad, so on days where I don’t feel like fighting real players, having the choice to mess around in Battlefield 2042 maps and modes at a more relaxed pace would also be welcomed. As such, this Battlefield 2042 open beta has been very informative for me: I know my rig can (just barely) run Battlefield 2042, the setup is still fun enough for me, and once I have a little more information on things like features and Battlefield Portal following the game’s launch, I’ll be able to make a more informed decision on things.

Halo Infinite: A Reflection on the Open Beta

“This is my last fight; a true test of legends! Our story…will outlive us both. Set a fire in your heart, Spartan! Bare your fangs! Fight hard! Die well!” –War Chief Escharum

Originally set for launch in November 2020, 343 Industries ended up making the decision to delay Halo Infinite‘s release to December 2021 to ensure that their latest instalment of Halo was functioning as expected. While at launch, Forge and co-op will not be available, 343 Industries decisions demonstrates the level of commitment to quality that is expected of developers; in recent memory, games like Cyberpunk 2077 and No Man’s Sky had illustrated the price of launching games on schedule even in the knowledge the game was incomplete, with inevitable results. For me, since I’m in no particular rush, these delays are acceptable: in fact, as far as gamers go, I’m quite unconventional in my habits, and news of Halo Infinite‘s launch date, as well as the presence of a technical test, drew my attention primarily because I am running a machine that is now eight-and-a-half years old. As such, the concern for me was a matter of whether or not Halo Infinite would even run on this machine: the game requires an Intel i5-4400 and GTX 1050 Ti at minimum, along with 8 GB of RAM. On paper, my machine’s GTX 1060 and 16 GB of RAM should be sufficient. Moreover, the i5-3570k is supposed to be around eight to fifteen percent faster than the i5-4400k under real-world conditions despite being older. However, it isn’t until one actually attempts to run a game that performance can be tangibly ascertained: this was my primary goal with Halo Infinite‘s technical test, and after around four hours of gameplay spent in the open beta, playing against both AI bots and other players have given me a much clearer picture of what the way forwards looks like. On my aging setup, Halo Infinite is generally very playable at 1080p, maintaining a consistent 60 FPS with the visual settings set to the “high” preset. There were frame drops on occasion, although I did not find that they occurred as a result of activity on the screen (e.g. entering a crowded area with many players, or the result of visual effects resulting from weapon fire and explosives usage). The client testers were provided with was generally stable, although I did experience a two separate instances where the build did freeze or crash to the desktop as a result of bad memory access. Outside of these issues, I have satisfied myself with the fact Halo Infinite appears to run with reasonable smoothness on my machine.

Looking beyond the fundamental matters of performance and stability, Halo Infinite‘s technical test gave me a chance to try out the gameplay mechanics for myself. Trailers had shown that Halo Infinite would feature the return of equipment that had previously been employed in entertaining ways during combat, including a grappling hook and shield wall. However, the most critical element in any Halo game (or shooter, for that matter) is the movement and weapon system. Halo Infinite delivers on both. Player movement has been refreshed to be in line with more modern games; besides the return of a sprint system, players have slightly faster movement than the Spartans did in the original Halo titles, and there is now a vaulting system that allows players to grab ledges, making navigation through maps easier than before. Altogether, modernising movement in Halo Infinite means maps can similarly be updated to utilise creative elements that weren’t previously possible. The gun-play in Halo Infinite is similarly excellent. Weapons feel powerful, and the time-to-kill is reasonable. Players being shot at have enough time to react and get out of a situation. Keeping cool under pressure will allow one to win a firefight even if one did not start shooting first, but players who start a combat engagement with a sure aim and utilisation of the right timing and equipment will come consistently out triumphant. The weapons themselves are fun to use: the basic assault rifle has come a very long way from the Halo: Combat Evolved incarnation and is now reliable, while the Halo 2 battle rifle returns as the BR-75. Players are given feedback in response to landing shots on an enemy, and scoring kills. While quality-of-life adjustments in Halo Infinite makes every successful kill more visceral than in earlier Halo titles, the core gameplay largely remains untouched: everything still feels like it did with Halo 2. Overall, the gameplay mechanics of Halo Infinite are satisfying and consistent, retaining all of the elements that made the original Halo games great, while simultaneously bringing some of the best features in contemporary shooters into Halo.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While I’ve had two weekends to try the Halo Infinite beta out, these days, I’m don’t spend the whole of that time in game: the weather of late’s been gorgeous, and I’ve been greatly enjoying all that the autumn weather has to offer. I ended up spending the afternoon yesterday walking out to a grove of trees that turned golden-yellow, and then swung by an overlook at the park’s southern end. Shortly after spawning into my first-ever match on Live Fire, the original map that August’s Halo Infinite technical test featured, I immediately snapped up the S7 Sniper Rifle and got a double kill with it against the bots. My intention in this open beta was not to see how much gameplay I could experience, but rather, to see if my machine could even run Halo Infinite, and so, having the option of playing against AI bots was most refreshing.

  • One of the drawbacks about open betas are that some players deliberately use their vacation time to experience the beta, and consequently, have put in upwards of eight hours before I even finished downloading the client. Playing against these individuals means being annihilated in the blink of an eye, which would’ve degraded my ability to run the game for longer periods of time. Conversely, with AI bots, I was able to stay alive for extended periods and properly stress-test my machine, as well as see what happened whenever many grenades were thrown and equipment deployed.

  • On the whole, Halo Infinite runs very well, and there were no player actions that seemed to cause any performance issues. However, during one match, my client began stuttering and then outright froze, forcing me to quit (and incur the early quit penalty). After I finished and quit another session, my machine suffered from a blue screen of death, with the error code indicating my GPU had been overtaxed. DOOM Eternal has done this to my machine on occasion, where the computer would display a blue screen and force a restart after I’d quit the game.

  • These sorts of things happen infrequently, but I imagine that it is a driver problem more than anything; even people running more recent GPUs, like the RTX 2080 Ti, have reported this issue on some occasion. However, as noted previously, these events are infrequent enough so that they’re not super-disruptive. Here, I’ve switched on over to the Recharge map, which is located inside a hydroelectric plant. I’m armed with the basic MA40 Assault Rifle, a capable all-around weapon for close to medium range combat, and the MK50 Sidekick as my sidearm.

  • The MK50 is more similar to the M6C line of pistols, being a compact and lightweight weapon compared to the hard-hitting magnum pistols of earlier Halo games. In most matches, I discard this weapon straight away for a different secondary weapon: here, I’ve got the VK78 Commando, an automatic tactical rifle with a twenty-round box magazine. Accurate and reliable at range, the VK78 replaces the DMR, reaching further out than the battle rifle, but firing more rapidly than the sniper rifle. This weapon very quickly became a favourite for me; while I used to be a big CQC person in Halo, my experiences in Battlefield has meant that medium range engagements are something I’m more comfortable with.

  • This strange-looking weapon is the Ravager, a Banished weapon that fires arcing plasma rounds that can deal damage to vehicles and infantry alike. The weapon is not reloadable and utilises a battery, but built-up heat is not automatically dissipated, so players must use the reload button to vent the weapon. During the open beta, I found that the UNSC and classic Covenant weapons proved to be the most reliable and consistent in firefights; the new Covenant Pulse Carbine, for instance, is a burst-fire plasma rifle with the Carbine’s form factor, although its behaviour was a little difficult to get used to, so I ended up ditching it. Conversely, the Plasma Pistol and Needler still work just as I remember, making them excellent secondary weapons.

  • Bazaar is a map set in Old Mombasa and therefore, is reminiscent of Halo 2‘s “Outskirts” mission in terms of aesthetic. This arena-like map is laid out in a manner most similar to Counterstrike‘s classic Dust and Dust II maps, featuring a central open area and two “bases” that make the map suited for two-team battles, like CTF. These sorts of maps bring back the memories I have of playing Halo 2 on Windows Vista: back then, I had considerably more time than I did today, and I remember (with a twinge of regret) that I spent the most of my summer, prior to starting university, playing custom games in Halo 2‘s multiplayer.

  • In retrospect, I would’ve been better served spending that time with a summer job, specifically, at one of the local bookstores: while the work experience here wouldn’t be relevant to the undergraduate research experience I did end up picking up, and the pay isn’t anything to write home about, it would’ve been nice to get out and do something constructive with my time. Once I did enter university, I spent my summers doing research instead: this was both relevant and engaging. On the flipside, I also remember that most days, I also went for long bike rides on the best of days.

  • The new CQS48 Bulldog is a combat shotgun fed from a rotary magazine. Compared to the old pump action shotguns, the Bulldog has a much faster reload and can fire faster, but does considerably less damage than its predecessors. Here, I used it to decimate an AI bot at close quarters, earning myself a Running Riot spree in the process. The bots in Halo Infinite‘s training mode can have their difficulties adjusted, but during the online matches where I teamed up with other players against the AI bots, said bots appeared to have had their difficulties set to the easiest level: every match I played was a blowout (or, in Halo terms, “Steaktacular”).

  • Here,  I stick a bot with the plasma grenades. The keen-eyed reader will have spotted that the evergreen trees in the background look a little blocky and low-resolution; I originally wondered if this had to do with the fact that I was running Halo Infinite on the default low settings, but even after turning the settings up, the trees remained of a low quality. It is probably the case that not all assets or visual effects have been finished at this point in time: 343 Industries sent out a stable build to test their server capacities and see how things handle under load for this test flight.

  • After switching over to higher visual quality, I did not notice any appreciable improvement in the visuals. Fortunately, there was also no degradation in performance: 343 Industries intended this test more for their servers rather than for us players, and I imagine that the build we were given, while ready for play-testing, is not optimised yet. Assuming this to be the case, it could mean that I’ll have no trouble running the launch version with reasonable settings.

  • While some elements of Halo Infinite are still works-in-progress, others are remarkably polished and look production ready. Here, after scoring a double kill on some AI bots, I made to reload my weapon and happened to capture a screenshot of the reload, which highlights the level of details that went into the weapon models. Reloads have come a very long way since the GoldenEye 64 days, where the animation simply involved ducking the weapon off screen and raising them once the reload finished.

  • The HUD in Halo Infinite has been modernised so that its layout is identical to that used in contemporary shooters. Previous Halo games put the ammunition display counter on the upper right of the screen, and the grenade inventory on the upper left. However, more popular shooters like Half-Life and Counterstrike had their ammunition counters on the lower right. Call of Duty and Battlefield follow the same layout, as do other well-known shooters, so it made sense to migrate the ammunition counters over to the lower right.

  • The shield indicator firmly remains at the top of the screen, and players will have noticed a small health bar underneath that also recharges. This bar was originally hidden in Halo 2 through Halo 4, only returning in Halo 5 to provide a visual indicator of how much health a player has once their shields are drained. Health can be depleted very quickly if the shields are dropped, and players traditionally can fall to a single headshot if their shields are down, so as soon as the upper screen flashes red in response to shields being low, one’s first move is to get to cover as soon as possible (or finish off a foe and then get away when safe to do so).

  • During the beta, I had a plethora of double kills, but owing to the map and team sizes, I never got around to getting any triple kills despite coming close on a few occasions (teammates would finish off the enemies before I could). It has struck me that 4 on 4 matches mean that the coveted Killtacular would be exceptionally rare. Back when I was a secondary school students, some of my friends were absolutely determined to get a killtacular and so, hosted LAN parties every other week. Since graduating from university, everyone’s gone their separate ways, although right up until the global health crisis started, we were still able to gather on some occasions for LAN parties.

  • A big part of the fun about LAN parties was that, since we didn’t do them often, they always took forever to setup, as we fumbled with wiring all of the Xboxes together using Ethernet cables. This was one constant that remained with us no matter how many times we did the LAN parties, but we never minded; while waiting for setup, conversations would turn towards all manner of topics. Of course, during LAN parties, the folks with Xboxes back home would tend to do the best, and the remainder of us would be lucky to get a few kills here and there. This never mattered, though, since LAN parties were always fun.

  • Here, I’ve finally come upon the BR-75 Battle Rifle: a burst-fire weapon that was introduced in Halo 2 and subsequently became the most recognised MLG weapon in the games. With its three-round burst, the battle rifle was a reliable four shot kill at medium ranges (three bursts to strip the shield, and then a headshot), making it a highly consistent and dependable. On consoles, I’ve never been able to make use of the weapon properly, but with the mouse and keyboard, the battle rifle has very much become my favourite starting weapon in Halo.

  • I’d like nothing more than to have fun and relive the glory days of the old LAN parties in a comfortable chair at home. However, when I returned to The Master Chief Collection‘s multiplayer last year, I found that the design paradigm behind Halo‘s multiplayer today is completely incompatible with what I am looking for. I expect to be able to drop in and out of matches without penalty and play in a relaxed fashion, but 343 Industries have a quit penalty, and players in the so-called “social” tier are still aggressively competitive.

  • In conjunction with the fact that players will universally plug in a controller to capitalise on the fact that controller have full aim assist and increased bullet magnetism, playing with the mouse and keyboard set up leaves me at an immense disadvantage, so I ended up calling it quits by the time Halo 3 joined The Master Chief Collection. Here, I managed to swipe the SPNKR rocket launcher and blew up an enemy. Playing Battlefield and Call of Duty has changed my usage of explosive weapons somewhat: in modern military shooters, anti-armour weapons don’t have enough splash damage to be effective in an anti-infantry role, but in Halo, the rocket launcher is meant to be a power weapon, possessing limitations but otherwise, remains highly effective against personnel and vehicles alike.

  • For Team Slayer matches, the AI bots are more than fine, but it turns out that the bots are also present in smaller games of CTF and Territory Control: the very fact that the bots do work suggests to me that it would be possible to include a mode with bots only so players can get used to the maps and weapons without affecting their stats. For players like myself, bot-only matches would also represent a nice way to simply go mess around for ten minutes and play at my own pace: the days where I could dedicate a few hours towards ranking up my character and items are long past, and I prefer games where I can pop in and drop off whenever I wish.

  • Towards the end of the open beta, my old skills began returning to me, and I managed to get a double kill off the bots with the battle rifle. The bots, while far easier than human players, still have the same shields and health as players do, making them a great way to get a feel for the TTK against human players. I elected against playing real players for as often as I could for the open beta, since the aim of this exercise had been to test the game. I won’t have this luxury during the Battlefield 2042 beta; DICE had announced their beta to start on October 8 and will run through the ninth.

  • However, players who preordered or have EA Access will be able to start their test on October 6. Preloading begins on the fifth, and here, I will note that while I am a Battlefield fan, I’m not so dedicated as to preorder the game yet. Instead, I will sit down for a few sessions on Friday night and throughout Saturday where I am able. Similarly to Halo Infinite, my goal will be simply to see how well my machine can handle Battlefield 2042. Unlike Halo Infinite, however, Battlefield 2042 won’t have a campaign, and what determines whether or not I end up buying it will be how extensive Battlefield Portal‘s AI bots are.

  • Back in Halo Infinite, I start a match on Behemoth, a larger map more suited for Big Team Battles rather than infantry-only matches. Vehicles are available, and this makes the match particularly suited for the larger matches of CTF or territories. I’m actually not too fond of these larger maps, since the vehicles disappear almost the moment the match starts, leaving me to hoof it across the map. Conversely, the smaller, arena-like maps are my favourite, since their focus is on infantry combat. In Battlefield, maps are designed so players can spawn onto points allies have already captured, on squad-mates who are out of combat, or on special beacons, so larger maps aren’t a problem.

  • The Volt Piercer (informally, the Shock Rifle) is one of the most exotic weapons I’ve seen in a Halo game and would not look out of place in something like Planetside 2 or Tribes Ascend. Firing an electrolaser bolt with a range of up to 300 metres, the weapon functions similarly like a sniper rifle and can kill with one headshot. However, it can also arc off nearby enemies, and two shots can temporarily disable a vehicle. I’ve not had the chance to try the plasma pistol’s overcharge against a vehicle, but in Halo 4, the overcharge could disable a vehicle and render it vulnerable to boarding.

  • Overall, the modes against AI bots were fairly compelling, and I had a great deal of fun here: the weapons of Halo Infinite definitely retain the handling and feel of the classic weapons. Of course, the most fun for me will be seeing where all of these weapons come into play during Halo Infinite‘s campaign. Towards the end of my time in the open beta, I hopped on over to Fragmentation for a Big Team Battle match up, marking the first time I’d fought human players during this open beta. I admit that I was a little reluctant to join such a match: back when 343 Industries was flighting Halo 3, I ended up with a miserable experience owing to the fact that the game openly favoured controller players.

  • However, when I joined my Big Team Battle match, I was fortunate in that the size of the map meant that players were spread out enough so that I did end up with a chance to explore the map and get a few kills here and there, as well as work out where all of the weapons were. I’m not sure if Halo Infinite will bring back the old loadouts from Halo 4, which allowed players to spawn with a primary and secondary (non-power) weapon of their choice. If given the choice, I’d almost always pick the battle rifle and magnum in Halo 4. However, since the battle rifle and Commando tactical rifle are found on the weapon racks as pickups, I imagine that Halo Infinite could be going back to the basics.

  • For some reason, Halo Infinite describes the Commando as a light machine gun: while the Commando is automatic, its smaller ammunition capacity and description as a precision weapon means it doesn’t satisfy the definition of what makes a light machine gun: LMGs don’t necessarily fire full-sized cartridges, but their function is to fulfil an infantry support role (e.g. providing covering fire). The small magazine on the Commando is too small for the weapon to be used in this role, so I am wondering if 343 Industries are going to continue referring to the Commando as an LMG once the game launches.

  • I managed to pick up another Shock Rifle and began firing on distant enemies, but because the weapon’s handling is unlike the UNSC weapons, I wasn’t able to place the best shots on my opponents, who were trying to steal our flag. However, I did land two hits on two different foes, and my teammates astutely picked them off. This match ended up being a game of attrition: players were very much focused on defense and felt reluctant to go on offense, which makes sense, since everyone is still new to the map: I did make one attempt to take the enemy flag, but died instantly, since half their team was hanging back.

  • As the match drew to an end, I ended up picking up the Heatwave, a Forerunner hard light weapon designed for close-quarters combat. The weapon is most similar to a shotgun, and in its default mode, fires a horizontal pattern of projectiles. However, it can be altered to fire in a vertical pattern. The former sounds good for crowd control, and the latter has proven to be excellent against individual targets. The weapon resembles the UNSC Rail Gun (Halo 4), and indeed, when I picked it up, I was expecting the weapon to handle like the Rail Gun.

  • During this final map on Fragmentation, I ended up going 13-16 and helped my team to win the game with a score of 1-0, and to cap things off, I’ll show that it is possible to get kills with the Sidekick even though it is a sidearm meant for use if one’s starting primary weapon is out. All things considered, this wasn’t a bad first time playing against real players, and I did have fun just running around on the map and engaging lone players before ducking away. With this, Halo Infinite‘s open beta comes to a close, and I imagine that the next time I play Halo Infinite will be once the campaign launches.

Having now had the chance to experience Halo Infinite for myself, it is clear that my aging machine will run Halo Infinite in a passable manner, and the gameplay itself retains everything that made the original Halo games so enjoyable. As such, my final verdict on whether or not I will pick this game up is simple enough: I have seen enough to know that I will have a good time with the game once it launches in December. The multiplayer aspect to Halo Infinite is actually free-to-play, and revenue is to be generated by a seasonal battle pass: 343 Industries will have seasons, and players can purchase the passes for seasons they wish to unlock cosmetics for. Unlike other developers, who have time restrictions, Halo Infinite‘s battle pass system will be such that one could buy the first season pass a year later and still be guaranteed a fair chance at completing everything. While my main interest in Halo has always been with the campaigns, a free-to-play multiplayer gives another more opportunity to see how my desktop handles Halo Infinite before I step into the campaign should the need arise (otherwise, if the footage of gameplay looks promising, and the benchmarks look good, picking up Halo Infinite will be an easy decision). The sum of my experiences here in Halo Infinite‘s technical test have been positive. If the final product can iron out the more serious of the issues I experienced, as well as optimise the game to further improve performance, 343 Industries will have made a very compelling case for me to pick up the single player campaign at launch price. With this being said, the multiplayer alone is not something I see myself playing extensively; in this day and age, I no longer have the time to play through multiplayer games with a lengthy progression system. The appeal of having a single player campaign is precisely that I can experience something at my own pace. However, if Halo Infinite were to include the ability to play AI bots in all of the same game modes and maps that are available to in PvP modes (complete with match score and time limits), I would be ecstatic; the AI bots seen Halo Infinite are actually pretty convincing when set to the higher difficulties, and while they understandably should not contribute to one’s completion of progression items, being able to go into a private server and mess around with the AI bots would be immensely enjoyable, perfect for folks who are interested in having a more laid-back opportunity to have fun in their own manner of choosing.

The Relevance of AI Bots in Contemporary Games, and A Case Study in Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War

“What will limit us is not the possible evolution of technology, but the evolution of human purposes.” –Stephen Wolfram

While Agent Under Fire today might be counted as unremarkable, it was revolutionary for its time: tucked away in the multiplayer menu was an option to play against AI bots. If one’s friends were unavailable, or one wanted to learn the multiplayer maps that way, one could add a few bots into a match, set their difficulty and aggression, then enjoy a match against the AI, whether it be to explore the map or warm up prior to a split-screen session. In this area, Agent Under Fire completely raised the expectation for what games could accommodate, offering single players additional choice even if they did not have additional friends over at the time. Against the bots on iconic maps like Town or Castle, one could spend an hour just learning the map and its tactics, facing AI of difficulties one found appropriate. This feature would later make its way to Nightfire, which further allowed the bots’ AI to be customised. Bots could be team players, focused on grabbing power weapons or simply care for kills. When friends weren’t available to visit, I used to still play Nightfire‘s multiplayer with bots for amusement, marvelling at the fact that I could still learn the maps and weapons without needing a second player. When properly implemented, AI bots provide players with more choice and more options: some folks might want to explore maps and blast enemies at their own pace, without angry teammates screaming at them about what to do. Others simply don’t enjoy the frustration of excessively serious players ruining sandbox moments. However, it is rare for modern multiplayer games to feature bots; the idea behind multiplayer is that one is fighting human opponents, the ultimate foe in terms of strategy and skill. As such, most games don’t bother with implementing offline bots: writing pathing algorithms and decision trees to give the AI the proper level of sophistication is a demanding process, and studios would, understandably, prefer to focus on their core mechanics so that they can provide the best possible experience for players interesting in squaring off against other players.

The emphasis on always-online games is not without inherent risks for players. For one, if one’s connection goes down, or worse still, if the servers go offline, then an entire segment of the game is rendered unplayable. This is a longstanding problem that always-online games face: they are absolutely dependent on a stable connection and uptime. While servers and internet connections now are generally reliable, if a company decides the time has come and pulls the plug on their servers, that’s pretty much it. This sort of thing happened with Halo 2 during the Xbox Live days, and again with Halo 2 Vista‘s servers; I spent countless hours in the latter honing my skills and generally having a good time, but when Halo 2 Vista‘s servers were shut down, I was more or less left with half a game. Had Halo 2 included a bots mode, I would’ve doubtlessly spent many more hours after that on Lockout, enjoying an iconic experience. The addition of AI bots also opens the floor for creativity. After my time in Halo 2 ended, I ended up finding a replacement in Battlefield 3: this was a fantastic large-scale sandbox experience, but it was fully dependent on populated servers. On filled servers, it was non-stop, engaging chaos as players fought for objectives, and whacky emergent behaviours created some of Battlefield 3‘s most iconic moments. However, quieter servers were less exciting, and some days, I was met with empty servers where the match was awaiting enough players to join. Having AI bots to fill servers would doubtlessly had made matches easier to find, lessening the time I was waiting for things. Indeed, Battlefield 2042 appears to have learnt from this and will utilise bots to fill the void. For players looking to get the most of things, finding a server will be no problem, and as more humans join a server, the bots are simply replaced. The setup in Battlefield 2042 therefore helps players looking to enter the action as soon as possible, but the presence of bots also has a significant implication: it might be possible to spin up a local server with nothing but AI bots, and then spawn in with one’s mates and have a good time trying to kill helicopters with a bike or running around with terrible loadouts.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ve not spent a minute in the online multiplayer of Cold War, but upon learning that there was an offline mode for bots, I was convinced to give things a go: overall, Cold War‘s multiplayer does feel a little less finessed compared to something like Battlefield V or Halo, and as such, playing against other players could be quite frustrating. On the other hand, against AI bots, the experience becomes much more relaxing and casual, making it well-suited for someone who has around an hour to game.

  • What I enjoyed most about Cold War‘s multiplayer was the fact that the weapons could be extensively customised, allowing a given primary weapon to feel like a completely different weapon with the use of a few customisations. This creates variety, and players can use the AI bots to play with things before hopping into a real match. Here, I’m running the MP5, which was known as the KS-7 in Agent Under Fire. Unlike the KS-7, which was a peashooter, the MP5 in Cold War is a solid submachine gun and can be reliably used at close quarters to down enemies.

  • Agent Under Fire players will know the AUG as the UGW. However, whereas Agent Under Fire treated the AUG as an automatic weapon with good accuracy and damage, but a lower firing rate, in Cold War, the AUG is a burst-fire tactical rifle that can take an enemy out in as few as two bursts. In keeping with the aesthetic seen in Agent Under Fire, I’ve opted to keep the default sights on a given weapon, modifying the barrel and underbarrel for slightly improved performance.

  • The Moscow map is one of my favourites in Cold War, showing off things like water reflections and lighting. If memory serves, I tried out the bots mode back in May after installing the multiplayer component; originally, I’d bought Cold War thinking that I’d go through the campaign, but after hearing about the AI bots, I became curious to try out a mode that could extend the longevity of this game. Having played a few rounds against the AI bots, I conclude that this is indeed a nice way to spend half an hour on weeknights if I’m ever in the mood to blow stuff up in a more relaxed environment, away from the aggressively competitive players out there.

  • I’ve switched on over to Yamantau and have decided to run with the basic AK-47 here. Cold War‘s AK-47 feels particularly powerful, being a reliable and hard-hitting weapon. In most games nowadays, the AK-47 is portrayed as a slower-firing assault rifle that is less accurate than the M-16 and its counterparts, but otherwise does more damage per shot. This is reflecting on the fact that the Ak-47 fires a 7.62 mm round, as well as the fact that the weapon was manufactured with lower precision compared to their NATO equivalents.

  • This, together with the fact that the AK-47 is made of very few moving parts and has a robust construction, contributes to the weapon’s legendary durability and reliability. In video games, this translates to NATO weapons being portrayed as more accurate and having a higher rate of fire, while Eastern Bloc weapons deal more damage but will fire more slowly and be less accurate at range. In older games like Agent Under Fire, the AK-47 (KA-57) is depicted as an entry level assault rifle that does intermediate damage.

  • Agent Under Fire had been built around its campaign, and so, as the players got further into the campaign, the weapons became more powerful. This was appropriate for the single player mode, but it meant that some weapons were evidently better than others in the multiplayer. Nightfire ended up addressing this by making weapons more specialised (for instance, players have access to a suppressed burst-fire SG-551 in the first mission, but later, the unsuppressed, full-automatic version appears). Today, weapons have a wider range of attributes, and weapons diversity means that developers must balance everything against one another.

  • Agent Under Fire‘s Windsor FSU-4 is the M16A2 armed with the M203 under-barrel grenade launcher and sports a 40-round magazine. It’s an upgrade from the KA-57 and is introduced later in the campaign, featuring more firepower. The FSU-4 is a fully-automatic weapon, but in Cold War, the M16 is another tactical rifle with burst fire capabilities. Burst fire weapons have typically not been too popular, since players prefer to spray on full automatic or pick their foes off one shot at a time. However, Halo 2‘s implementation of a burst-fire weapon, in the BR-55, allows for versatility: the weapon can be controlled for longer range combat, but fires quickly enough to deal with foes at closer ranges.

  • During the Electronic Arts era of James Bond, all of their titles (Agent Under FireNightfire and Everything or Nothing) featured the SPAS-12. This Italian shotgun has a very distinct appearance because of how it looks when its stock is folded up, and while it’s a pump-action shotgun in reality, Agent Under Fire gives the weapon the more useful semi-automatic mode to increase its rate of fire. In Cold War, the SPAS-12 is a two shot kill, but has a good firing rate, making it easier to land follow-up shots.

  • A quick glance at the calendar shows that three years ago, I wrote about Battlefield V‘s open beta. I’d been home from Winnipeg for five days now, and while that assignment had been tough, what followed was nigh unbearable. When August had drawn to a close, we’d closed up our office and began working from home, although I was still required to meet with the founder and other staff. Because of a lack of accommodations, we ended up utilising my access to the university’s facilities to meet. During my downtime, I spent a fair bit of it playing the Battlefield V beta, which had opened the day after I returned and ran for five days.

  • Although I was knocking out work items daily, the fact that the backend’s team was essentially creating make-work (e.g. arbitrarily changing JSON responses and bouncing code reviews for choice of variable names) meant that the project continued to be delayed. I recall a cold, grey morning where I was scheduled for a live demo with the Denver team, but thanks to the backend team altering the names of JSON keys, the app crashed the moment I opened it during said demo. Fortunately for me, I’d done a video capture of the project and was able to show that, but the way the Winnipeg team worked made it an incredibly stressful environment.

  • Having the Battlefield V beta to look forwards to after hours really helped me to de-stress and gave me something to look forward to after a long day of sorting out bugs and dealing with headache. In the present day, I was expecting that Battlefield 2042‘s open beta to be this week, but scuttlebutt was that there’s some delays owing to development challenges, pushing the beta out to September 24. This is, incidentally, when Halo Infinite‘s open beta is scheduled to run.  I’ve never encountered a situation quite like this before, where two betas were running concurrently, but assuming that both betas happen on the same weekend, my priority this time around will be to get a feel for how both games perform on my system.

  • Previously, I primarily played betas to gain insight into how a given game handled from a mechanics standpoint, but with my machine now entering eight and a half years of service, it’s important to determine whether or not any games I have an interest in can even run on my system before I sink any coin into it; Cold War represents a situation where I’d jumped the gun, and while upgrading an OS is comparatively straightforward, outright building a new rig is going to be more involved. Under the best of circumstances, I could purchase a new custom rig and get it up and running in two weeks or so, but with the ongoing microprocessor shortage and crypto-mining causing GPU supply to be limited, building a new computer isn’t viable (it’s still possible, but not cost effective).

  • Here, I open hostilities with the Milano 821, which I’ve got standing in for Agent Under Fire‘s Ingalls (itself a facsimile of the Ingalls MAC-10, which I haven’t bothered unlocking because that would entail playing actual multiplayer matches). The Ingalls is a step up from the KS-7 in Agent Underfire, but is overall inferior to the PS-100 (P90). Conversely, the Milano 821 in Cold War is a decent weapon, handling like a submachine gun version of the AK-47 in having a lower rate of fire and higher damage per shot compared to the MP5.

  • On the other hand, the CARV.2 (a fictionalised version of the Heckler and Koch G11) was a weapon worth unlocking: late in June and early July, I spent my weekends farming long-shot kills in Cold War‘s Zombies mode to earn this weapon. This burst-fire weapon fires 4.73 mm ammunition and is very accurate, making it a great choice for medium to long range encounters. After several weekends, I finally unlocked the weapon, and subsequently kitted mine out with the Axial Arms 3x optic, which is considered to be the best optic one can use for medium to long range combat.

  • The bonus is, of course, that the CARV.2 is Cold War‘s equivalent of Agent Under Fire‘s D17. Agent Under Fire portrays the D17 as being the ultimate weapon, a combination of high accuracy, rate of fire and damage with the largest ammunition capacity of any assault rifle in game. The weapon is only available during the final campaign mission, Evil Summit, and handily beats out all of the other weapons in-game during multiplayer. I’ve spent many a Christmas getting mowed down by the D17 because we’d fight the bots on maximum difficulty and aggression.

  • Conversely, when we returned to the GameCube for kicks more recently, working out how to corner the bots and stop them before they could grab the D17 was instrumental in allowing us to win. Agent Under Fire‘s AI bots might not be the most impressive in the world (they occasionally get stuck and fail to notice when one is sneaking up on them), but at full difficulty and aggression, they are monstrosities that can utterly wreck players. This creates numerous hilarious moments where bots achieve kills that seem supernatural, contributing to the fun factor in Agent Under Fire.

  • The combination of D17 and bots in Agent Under Fire is entertaining enough so that one could spend hours at a time just blasting the AI for fun without ever needing to hop on an online multiplayer match, and having spent the bulk of the past twenty-one months playing bots, I came to realise that these offline modes are essential parts of any game that wishes to have longevity. The idea here is that, even if the servers are offline, having the map assets and ability to fight bots locally lets one play multiplayer even when support for the game stops.

  • The other reason that bots are now something to look for in a game is that, at least for me, online gaming has become a most undesirable place to be of late. I noticed this in Battlefield V, where cheaters ran unchecked, and the community encouraged unsportsmanlike behaviours during matches. These actions ranged from pushing players using AA vehicles out of bounds to kill them and free up a vehicle slot for themselves, camping, and players not utilising their classes’ abilities (e.g. refusing to revive, heal and drop ammo).

  • Calling out these players was met with a flood of insults in the text chat, and since Battlefield V automatically censored out expletives, players would resort to making up new insults that were far more annoying and offensive, creating a new sort of meme culture in the process. I’ve heard that online gaming has only gotten worse: Fortnite players insult one another for lacking cosmetic items, and in Warzone or Apex, cheating is even worse than it is in Battlefield V. With online games are looking more and more unplayable these days, AI bots can fill that void and provide players with a quasi-multiplayer experience.

  • Here, I’m rocking the Pelington 703 (modelled after the Remington Model 703, standing in for the SSR-4000, known as the SSG 3000). In Agent Under Fire‘s multiplayer matches, I never set the SSR-4000, since my aiming skills with a controller is non-existent (and in matches where I’ve tried, the bots end up steamrolling us). In Cold War, the opposite is true: while I’m nowhere nearly skilled enough against human players, I can make the sniper rifles work in matches with AI bots to have a phenomenal time. The Pelington is particularly fun to use because it feels like a hunting rifle.

  • I’ve played online multiplayer titles for about a decade; my experience started with Halo 2: Vista in 2009, and when the servers shut down in 2012, I switched over to Team Fortress 2 briefly before becoming a Battlefield fan. My first proper Battlefield experience began with Battlefield 3 in 2013, and I’ve played every Battlefield since then. I’ve noticed that antisocial behaviours weren’t really a problem in the Halo days. Trolling was definitely a present even back then, people rarely perpetrated disinhibited behaviours that we see today. For instance, the worst trolling I saw in the Halo days were players teabagging one another in matches, or people begging for Unusual hats in Team Fortress 2.

  • It was only with Battlefield V where I really began noticing hate speech, harassment, griefing and other unsportsmanlike behaviours. The uptick in antisocial behaviour coincides with the rise of in-game microtransactions and the battle royale genre’s popularity; younger players have gotten into their heads that one’s appearance in-game is directly correlated to their social status in real life, and are willing to use any method necessary to win in a given match so that others can remember who they are. Moreover, said players have taken to bullying players running “lesser” cosmetics, with hostilities spilling over to real life.

  • Video games are intended to be fun experiences that, at best, help players work on visual-spatial reasoning abilities, split-second decision-making and resource management, but recent trends have turned games into a demoralising experience and meme factories. Games like Fortnite thus become a pain to play, and multiplayer shooters with more conventional game-modes are no better, with people spewing insults and memes into the chat whenever they’re called out for unsportsmanlike behaviour. This is what made Battlefield V particularly unenjoyable for me, even more so than DICE’s constant messing with the game’s mechanics.

  • It is not particularly meaningful to have shouting matches with people who likely don’t contribute any taxes to their nation, so after Battlefield V ended, I began playing single player games exclusively. The resulting change in my well-being was profound: I became much more relaxed, and gaming returned to being a hobby I could unwind to. Single player modes further have the advantage of being titles that I can play at my own pace. If, mid-match, I need to go tend to something, I can pause the game and resume later without penalty.

  • The real joy of games is being able to immerse oneself in a different world, and enjoy things at one’s own pace, so moving forwards, I imagine that how single-player friendly a given game is will greatly impact whether or not I am likely to pick it up. Here, I’ve decided to open a match on one of the Miami maps and have loaded out the Stoner 63 LMG to look like a futuristic weapon. As it turns out, Infinite Warfare also has offline bots, and I’ve recently been getting back into that, as well: released in 2016, Infinite Warfare‘s requirements aren’t steep at all, and the game handles very smoothly.

  • I imagine that the multiplayer scene of Infinite Warfare is likely to either be depopulated, or else infested with cheaters, making it unplayable. Even though this is probably the case, because Infinite Warfare has AI bots, I am able to create a match and play against bots that are moderately challenging (and therefore, fun to fight). The shooting mechanics of Infinite Warfare are not as visceral or polished as those of Cold War, but they remain solid overall: in conjunction with the fact that the maps and weapons look rather cool, I am finding myself having a great deal of fun in a game I was otherwise only going to get twelve hours out of.

  • In this way, Infinite Warfare shows how AI bots dramatically improves the longevity of a game. Another title that did something similar is Star Wars: Battlefront II. While the original launch was plagued by lootboxes and a poor progression system, towards the end of Battlefront II‘s lifecycle, DICE added Instant Action to the game. Battlefront II thus went from being an unplayable disaster (compounded by try-hard players who already have all the best upgrades) to being an open Star Wars sandbox that allows players to kit their character out however they’d like and immerse themselves in the Star Wars universe without aggressively competitive players ruining the atmosphere.

  • These bot modes are excellent because they allow for players to enjoy an element that is often forgotten when competitiveness takes over: the game’s aesthetics and atmosphere. While I might’ve had the time to improve my skill in competitive multiplayer games ten, even five years ago, other obligations now mean that it is no longer feasible for me to do so. I don’t wish to spend hours every week trying to keep up with players half my age when there are bills to pay, and in the time that I do have, I’d much rather have fun. This is why Battlefield 2042‘s upcoming Portal mode is so interesting; if there is a full-fledged AI bots mode and all weapons, attachments and gear are unlocked for experimentation, this mode will allow me to explore Battlefield 2042‘s sandbox capabilities in a way that previous titles had not accommodated.

  • I’ve heard that today is National Video Games day, and I intend to capitalise on this by playing games in the manner of my choosing: in a private space away from all of those who believe that cosmetics equates to skill. DOOM Eternal‘s The Ancient Gods looks a good place to begin, and having just finished a delicious dim sum lunch, the afternoon is open to me. Since I’m not honour-bound to squad up in a game where the goal is to win and show off a crude victory dance, there’ll be time to iron a few things, read a few more chapters of Harukana Receive, and then make my way into The Ancient Gods, all at my own pace.

The idea that Battlefield 2042 might permit a fully-featured AI bots mode might very well be a reality: DICE has indeed announced the presence of something known as Battlefield Portal, which allows players to create their own game modes, utilising weapons and vehicles from different eras. It will be possible to pit 50 Tiger Is against a single platoon of M1A2s, or run a hundred soldiers with defibrillators versus a hundred soldiers with knives. Battlefield Portal is billed as the ultimate sandbox mode, a place where players can try out exotic and unique setups before publishing them to the community, and this means that for players seeking a single-player option against AI bots, Battlefield Portal might just be the answer. Being able to create an offline match with AI bots means being able to play Battlefield 2042 even if the servers are offline, and more importantly, being able to play in peace if one wanted to try driving a tank or messing with unusual weapon setups. Bots provide players with a highly cathartic and relaxing experience. They don’t insult the player, have no qualms with one quitting as a result of real-world obligations or become idle at inopportune moments. Games with bots remain highly playable long after the community has moved on to the next best thing, allowing a game to continue offering replay value well after its prime, and this gives the game value. In a case where Call of Duty holds the edge over Battlefield games, Black Ops: Cold War, Infinite Warfare and Modern Warfare Remastered all have bot modes. Similarly, Battlefront 2 features Instant Action, an offline bots-only mode. These modes offer me amusement, an experience that can’t be had when I’m playing against try-hards half my age who have more free time than responsibilities; video games are about having fun, first and foremost, and I play to immerse myself in different worlds, not to elevate my blood pressure because some kids decided they’d spend the entire match spamming the chat with frog memes and insulting everyone who isn’t camping. I do see myself continuing to drop into Black Ops: Cold War bot matches because it’s amusing, and if Battlefield 2042 is offering full-fledged AI bots in Portal (which, on top of the game’s base maps, will also feature iconic maps from Battlefield 1942, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 3), this gives me plenty of things to be excited about. Being able to play Battlefield at my own pace, away from the try-hards and cheaters, would be a breath of fresh air and a return to the age in gaming where the object was to have a good time.

DOOM Eternal: The T-Shaped Slayer and A Duel Between Titans At The Finale

“…and you will be their savior, your strength will be their shield and your will… their sword. You remain…unbroken…for your fight…is eternal.” –King Novik

With the way to Urdak open, the Doom Slayer slaughters his way to the Khan Maykr: here in Urdak, the Khan Maykr is preparing a ceremony to bring the Icon of Sin under her control. The Doom Slayer interrupts the ceremony and prevents the Khan Maykr from activating the Icon of Sin by stabbing the mortal heart of the Argenta. This causes the Icon of Sin thus sets off on a rampage towards Earth, and with the Khan Kaykr’s pact with Hell broken, dæmons begin invading Urdak. In order to reach Earth, the Doom Slayer reconfigures a Celestial Portal. destroys the Khan Maykr before following the Icon of Sin. After fighting through an abandoned city, the Doom Slayer confronts the Icon of Sin, destroying its armour and causing it to flee into a different area. Here, the Doom Slayer is able to finally bring down the Icon of Sin, and plunges the Crucible’s blade into its exposed brain, killing it. In the aftermath, King Novik reconsiders his words to the Doom Slayer, indicating that the Doom Slayer has been reinstated and will be counted upon should the need arise. This brings my twenty two and a half hour journey through DOOM Eternal to a close; having now beaten the whole of DOOM Eternal, I can say that I have a sufficient measure of this sequel to 2016’s DOOM to make a verdict about DOOM Eternal. Simply put, DOOM Eternal is a worthy successor to DOOM, being bigger and bolder in every way. The changes to the core combat system is a direct improvement, adding a new dimension to the way DOOM Eternal plays, and the nuances players must keep up with constantly pushes them to get creative and adapt whenever the going gets tough. The end result of this is that combat becomes more involved, and split-second decisions must be made more often. If DOOM had meant to suggest to players that they needed to play in a highly mobile and aggressive means by remaining on the move at all times to survive, then DOOM Eternal is reminding players that they must be mindful of all the tools they have at their disposal in order to survive. DOOM previously allowed players to plow through entire levels with naught more than the heavy cannon and plasma rifle, but the variety of dæmons in DOOM Eternal means this is no longer possible. Players must triage, prioritise and maintain calm nerves in every firefight in order to survive, and it becomes clear that this additional dimensionality is a logical evolution of what DOOM had established.

In this way, DOOM Eternal becomes the perfect sequel to DOOM: familiar elements make a return, but changes to the mechanics means that players end up with a new experience, one that builds upon what they’d previously learnt and mastered in DOOM. There is more to think about now, and more options available to players. Not every path is viable: using just the plasma rifle or heavy cannon against a Flameborne Baron, for instance, simply results in a great deal of ammunition expenditure, but combining the ice bomb, grenade and Blood Punch in conjunction with the heavy cannon and plasma rifle makes a difficult, lengthy fight trivially easy against an intimidating foe, allowing one to deal with them without spending precious time on weapon switching, especially when there are lesser dæmons also filling the air with deadly plasma fire and flame. DOOM Eternal thus addresses the problem of Maslow’s hammer in a highly elegant manner: in most contemporary video games, players are limited in the number of weapons they can carry, and as such, to maximise combat efficiency at a variety of ranges, players often stick to assault rifles, which balance rate of fire with accuracy at range, and in games like Battlefield or Call of Duty, it becomes possible to complete the entire campaign with the starting assault rifle, plus whatever pickups are needed to advance certain parts of the game (like a marksman rifle or anti-armour weapon). However, this can create complacency among players, who stick to one setup during an entire game. When games allowed players to carry an entire arsenal of weapons, weapons were often crafted to fit very specific roles. Half-Life and Half-Life 2, for instance, required players to constantly switch weapons to deal with threat of different types and at different ranges. When Halo: Combat Evolved released, it revolutionised the ways players played. Carrying two weapons at a time create a new problem for players to overcome, and deciding which weapons to pick became critical. This worked well for Halo because the sci-fi setting meant weapons could be specialised for different roles. However, since Call of Duty‘s dominance, players have grown accustomed to simply optimising their setups. DOOM Eternal forces players out of this as a wake-up call, reminding them that weapons are in a game for a reason, and that to be successful, one must utilise all of the tools at their disposal in order to be successful.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • We’ve come to it at last, the battle through the Khan Maykr’s turf, Urdak. For these last few missions in DOOM Eternal, I’ve been rocking EVGA’s Z15 series gaming mechanical keyboard with the bronze Kailh switches. I’d picked this keyboard up a couple of weeks ago because I was looking for an upgrade to the Devastator II I’d bought five years earlier. Having a mechanical keyboard means louder clicks, but I find this highly satisfying. For general computing, the mechanical keyboard doesn’t change much, but during writing, having a tactile response really makes a difference.

  • In gaming, the Z15 is reasonably responsive, and the further travel distance means I can make inputs with more confidence. Overall, while a more experienced keyboard specialist will suggest that the Z15 is eclipsed by other mechanical gaming keyboards on the market, I did pick mine up for a full 40 percent off, and it’s improved my computing experience, so I’m not complaining. The fact that the Z15 has customisable lighting is a nice bonus: while I use an all-white light for most days, I’ve also set some presets to give things a little more flair.

  • The only real strike I have against the Z15 is the fact that keystrokes register before the keys click in some scenarios, which feels quite cumbersome at times, but this occurs primarily when I’m typing: when I game, keystrokes register very well. It is with the Z15 that I beat DOOM Eternal with, and having this extra tactile feeling in controlling my character meant the last few missions to DOOM Eternal were particularly enjoyable, as well as demonstrating that the Z15 is going to be a solid keyboard for my uses.

  • Entering the penultimate mission, I knew that since this was the Maykrs’ homeland, it would be the case that I’d need to fight the Khan Maykr herself. However, unlike the fight against The Gladiator, Urdak is filled with combat encounters, and some of these were very demanding. By this point in DOOM Eternal, I’ve grown accustomed to the fact that I am going to die in a given firefight on my first few attempts if I am careless: DOOM Eternal now has no problem throwing everything at me all at once, creating waves of incredibly challenging enemies that demand a balance of coordination, reflexes and resource management.

  • On a few occasions, I finally brought out the Crucible: against the Flameborne Barons and Tyrants, the Crucible can be used to create breathing room, although in a fight with these dæmons , I can get by well enough by comboing the ice bomb with the frag grenades, and the chipping away at their health with something like the super shotgun, rocket launcher or chain gun. However, the Archvile’s ability to summon buffed dæmons means that any fight involving them could potentially overwhelm me. In these scenarios, I break out the Crucible and make a beeline for them, since taking them off the field becomes my first priority.

  • The sights around Urdak are impressive: the Maykrs’ world has very clean and elegant looking architecture. They also appear to have sakura trees about, creating a very unique aesthetic compared to the locales previously visited: everything about the Maykrs conveys the air of a higher civilisation, and digging into the lore finds that they were the ones who first figured out how to convert Hell Essence derived from agony and suffering of trapped in Hell souls with Sentinel energy. The process creates an infinitely renewable source of energy, but also transforms the souls into dæmons.

  • One of the few things I never got around to doing in DOOM Eternal was properly get the masteries for all of my weapons. I did encounter mastery tokens throughout the missions, but I’d intended to save them for the few masteries I did not unlock by the time I was ready to fight the Khan Maykr. Fortunately for me, it’s not necessary to have all of the masteries unlocked: these augment the way a weapon mod handles, typically improving it by getting rid of the cooldowns or adding a new effect, but beyond this, spending the weapon points will improve a mod more tangibly.

  • During one segment, I ended up unlocking the mastery for the heavy cannon’s sniper scope: enemies now explode when hit with a headshot that kills them, dealing splash damage to their surroundings. The mastery for micro-missiles is the ability to continuously fire micro-missiles, which is actually a superbly powerful and overwhelming option. Whereas there’d been little incentive to use the sniper scope in DOOM, since the Gauss Cannon was the superior long-range weapon, and long range combat was already uncommon, the inclusion of weak points in DOOM Eternal makes the sniper scope a viable choice.

  • The changes in core mechanics in DOOM Eternal are not subtle, and completely alter the ways players approach the game. DOOM had started the trend: taking cover and  being patient was punished, since enemies were constantly moving; to be successful, players would need to stay on the move, as well. DOOM Eternal adds on top of this the idea that every tool in the Doom Slayer’s arsenal is there for a reason, and therefore, should see appropriate use. In this way, DOOM Eternal was designed for players who enjoyed DOOM and wanted more out of their experience.

  • This is why I’ve paid Reddit very little heed; there are entire threads dedicated to bemoaning DOOM Eternal as being inferior to its predecessor because the fundamental gameplay had changed too dramatically, forcing players to play a certain way. It is the case that, had DOOM Eternal utilised the identical approach as did DOOM, those same players would’ve griped that Eternal did nothing novel. The negativity and entitlement in the community is astounding, and I’ve noticed that the LEGO community is no different: new sets are constantly being torn down for being too pricey if they’re innovative or unimaginative if their price is low.

  • Once I got the portals aligned, the effect here is not unlike that of Nidavellir in Infinity War after Thor and Rocket restart the Heart of a Dying Star. With this one, there’s nothing left to do but fight the Khan Maykr herself. Continuing on from the topic of negativity, in the case of LEGO, people have written and argued that there is no basis for this negativity, only for those people to come out and defend their right to be negative. While there is nothing wrong with constructive criticism, I do take exception with people who think they have a right to upvotes and retweets because they’re tearing something down.

  • Where I issue criticisms, I also offer suggestions. In the case of DOOM Eternal, for instance, I did not like the fact that the BFG 9000 and Unmaykr are on the weapon wheel because that negatively alters the dynamic of the most demanding firefights: running out of ammunition and automatically switching to the BFG 9000 has cost me precious ammunition unnecessarily. What I would’ve preferred is the DOOM style approach, where there’d been a separate key to equip the BFG and Unmaykr: these are powerful weapons like the Crucible in terms of function, and it’s important to not wrest this decision from players.

  • Incidentally, the BFG 9000 is not something I’d use in the fight against the Khan Maykr. She’s actually a fun enemy to fight, since this one emphasises movement, map knowledge and efficiency. Unlike other foes, the Khan Maykr has a recharging energy shield. When the shield drops, one must rappel up with the meat hook and do a Blood Punch to blow away her health pool. In this fight, keeping a constant stream of fire on the Khan Maykr is essential, so found that the slower-firing weapons were actually less useful.

  • While I’m using the heavy cannon with the sniper scope here, it turned out that using the bottomless micro missiles and taking advantage of their ability to weakly lock onto targets was the answer. It took me a few tries to get things right, but once I figured out the solution that worked for me, I was able to destroy the Khan Maykr in no time at all. During the process, I did die a few times, and DOOM Eternal offered me the Sentinel Armour, but I declined, believing that I’d been onto something. In this way, I was able to defeat the Khan Maykr and progress to the final mission, during which the task is to stop the Icon of Sin.

  • I jokingly refer to the Sentinel Armour as the “Upper Echelon Gaming” mode because of the fact that it greatly reduces incoming damage without punishing the player otherwise. Sentinel Armour pops up whenever a player dies too often at a certain point, and is intended to ask players “are you short of time, and need to get through this part quickly?” My response is a resounding “no”, since I expect to die a lot in games and see that as a learning experience. The reason why I call it Upper Echelon Gaming mode is because shortly after DOOM Eternal‘s release last year, a modestly popular YouTube channel made a review critiquing DOOM Eternal. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, Upper Echelon Gaming openly insulted people who disagreed with his assessment, which in turn started a massive firestorm.

  • For the record, I completely disagree with Upper Echelon Gaming, will remark that I’m glad I wasn’t part of the flame wars, and note that since he’s been banned from Twitter, there’s no real need to build a rebuttal (especially considering others had already done so in a satisfactory manner). Back in DOOM Eternal, I’ve entered the final mission: the first combat encounter is brutal and tense: the main challenge is that the space is very small and open, meaning that while one has a good line of sight on everything up here, enemies can similarly fire on the Doom Slayer, as well. Combat was relentless, brutal and punishing: constant movement and resource management is needed to gain a foothold here.

  • Here, I fight yet another Doom Hunter: these foes are still a pain to beat, and on the narrow rooftops that open this final mission to DOOM Eternal, I found myself squaring off against the toughest fight yet. Fortunately, endlessly regenerating chainsaw fuel, coupled with a better familiarity with game mechanics means that in the endgame, I was enjoying every moment of this fight. There were a few places where I ended up bringing out the Crucible to quickly smash up the super-heavy dæmons: the last level really gives more opportunity to savour being able to bring down a Flameborne Baron or Tyrant in a single stroke. This is a critical element, since removing a super-heavy dæmons swiftly can mean the difference between living and dying.

  • If memory serves, today was my third full day in Winnipeg three years earlier. After working on several tickets as best as I could, I was blocked by the fact that I was missing several updated endpoints. The developer working on that had already left for the day, so I wrapped up by making a list of tasks for the final day before I was set to fly back home. After this was done, I returned to the Beachcomber for dinner, then walked around The Forks after to unwind, before returning to the Fort Garry. The next morning, I got up early so I could pack, then walked back over to The Forks.

  • Here, I sat down at a place called Danny’s All Day Breakfast, where I ordered something called the Pan Scrambler (a scrambled egg omelette topped with cheese, green pepper, tomato, onion, white mushrooms, bacon, ham, garlic sausage and potatoes with a side of white toast). This breakfast was delicious and hearty, reminding me of Man v. Food‘s Mother’s Cupboard’s Frittata Breakfast Challenge in Syracuse. Fortunately, my breakfast was a more manageable size, although it was still very filling and gave me the spirit I needed to face that last day. I ended up finishing off a few tickets, but waited for over half the day for the backend developer to return; he’d been out of office for reasons unknown and hadn’t informed anyone, leaving several critical endpoints incomplete until close to the end of the day.

  • I ended up receiving the endpoints ten minutes before my taxi arrived, and I was whisked to the airport, more than ready to head home after a gruelling week. Back in DOOM Eternal, after vaulting over to a building, I found myself faced with a Tyrant in a room full of dæmons. I thus stepped back, discharged the BFG into the room and then waded into the resulting carnage. The initial blast had softened things up, allowing me to kill the Tyrant relatively quickly. However, in typical DOOM Eternal fashion, the game managed to up the stakes.

  • Two Tyrants spawned into the room shortly after. While perhaps overwhelming at first glance, there is a way to succeed: I used the ice bomb and frag grenade combo to weaken one Tyrant, then hammered it with micro-missiles, before repeating the process on the second Tyrant while back-pedalling. In this way, I was able to avoid total destruction: overwhelming waves of enemies are pretty cut-and-dried now, so it became a matter of triaging the targets, picking one’s approach and then engaging them. I have noticed that firefights in DOOM Eternal aren’t blisteringly fast; every combat encounter gave me enough time and space to think things through, so long as I was moving.

  • Final Sin was the one mission in DOOM Eternal where I willingly fired the BFG 9000: ammunition for this superweapon is common, and there are cases where it is prudent to use it for clearing out rooms before entering. This was one such moment: I carefully pointed the BFG into a point and opened fire. The trick with the BFG is to aim at a point without obstacles – the orb will travel through the air and emit highly damaging discharges that can instantly kill lesser dæmons. The longer it travels, the more enemies the orb will kill. When the orb impacts any surface, it detonates, releasing massive damage.

  • We’ve come to it at last: the fight against the Icon of Sin. This boss fight is quite unlike any other, requiring the Doom Slayer to fight it over two rounds. The first round has the Doom Slayer destroying its Maykr armour, which protects it from attack – the Maykrs had intended the Icon of Sin to be their weapon, and greatly augmented its powers. There are a total of armour pieces to destroy, and once a piece is taken out, no further damage will be sustained. Opening the fight, I shot at the Icon of Sin with the BFG 9000, which only does damage if the orb connects, but every successful shot will outright destroy an armour piece.

  • During the fight, countless dæmons will enter the arena and complicate things, but thanks to respawning Blood Punch and Crucible pickups, one can very quickly deal with any lesser dæmons before returning attention to the Icon of Sin. My strategy was to use the slower-firing, heavy hitting weapons for the head and chest, while the chaingun was best suited for the arms. While the Icon of Sin’s biggest weapon is its sheer size, it can shoot fireballs from its head, deploy flamethrowers from its hands and emit a beam of damaging energy, as well as attack the Doom Slayer physically, making it a lethal leviathan. As such, it is imperative to keep moving and take advantage of the lesser dæmons to top off on health, armour and ammunition.

  • In the words of Forged in Fire’s Doug Marcaida, the Crucible is a weapon that will definitely KEAL (Keep Everyone ALive) – I use it to instantly destroy a Flameborne Baron here, and will remark that for the past month, I’ve been watching a Forged in Fire extensively. Episodes are always fun: the show is a competition to see who can forge the best blade under challenging circumstances, and I’ve greatly enjoyed the sportsmanship. Even competitors who lose on the first round or suffer from a catastrophic failure during testing will comment that just being able to compete is an honour, while the judges are always professional and offer constructive criticism to even the roughest of entries.

  • I first watched Forged in Fire in Winnipeg, during my Xamarin assignment, and became hooked after watching the KEAL tests – after dinner, I would retire to my accommodations at the Fort Garry and saw the show on TV. While episodes follow a formula, it was engaging to see how competitors could overcome the challenges coming their way, and watching the final two return to their home forges and build the final weapon was fantastic, since it was a chance to really see how a bladesmith worked on their own turf. For me, it also reminded me of the fact that I tended to work better when I had home field advantage.

  • However, the two weeks that followed were even more exhausting as I fought the Winnipeg team on virtually every decision they had made – besides changing the JSON responses arbitrarily, causing the app to crash, they also refused to simplify the endpoint needed to carry out two-factor authentication, requiring users to enter a 26 digit long alpha numerical code. I had suggested that this code be simplified to six digits, but was met with the claim that this would mean the app was no longer HIPA compliant. Nowhere in the HIPA documents is it stated that a 26 digit long code was specifically required (only a PIN), and in the end, I won out: an app would be quite unusable if users were forced to enter a 26 digit code of random strings and numbers during sign in, and my implementation was still compliant while offering a far superior user experience.

  • Three weeks after I returned home, I finished the Xamarin project and finally was in a state where the app was ready for submission. It was approved shortly after, although this ended up being a Pyrrhic victory – the startup I was with folded because I was unable to properly develop our product. Earlier that September, we handed back the keys to our building, since funds had run low enough so we could no longer maintain our rent, and it did feel like things had ended then. With all that was going on, Forged in Fire fell from my mind, but after watching the History Channel recently, my interest in the show was reignited. Going through Forged in Fire again brought back memories of my Xamarin assignment’s Winnipeg phase, and I am very grateful to be able to watch Marcaida say a blade will KEAL, without the dread of what the Winnipeg team would fumble next, hanging over my head.

  • The second phase of the fight agains the Icon of Sin is the same as the first, albeit in a different location. Similar tactics apply here: using the BFG and hard-hitting weapons on the chest, and then automatics on the arms will be enough to bring this monster down for good. When enough damage is dealt to the Icon of Sin, the Doom Slayer will equip the Crucible and plunge the Argent blade into its brain, putting it down for good. This boss fight was reminiscent of Wolfenstein: The Old Blood‘s final fight, and is significant for showing how the Doom Slayer had accomplished the seemingly impossible feat of killing Titans previously, in turn showing that the Doom Slayer’s killing of the massive Titan in the Umbral plains. Lore suggests that the Doom Slayer might’ve used an Atlan to assist in this feat.

  • With my victory over the Icon of Sin, I’ve now beaten DOOM Eternal‘s base campaign in full – this has been a helluva experience, and I am very glad to have bought the Reiko version of the game (I still have The Ancient Gods to look forwards to). I’ll probably start The Ancient Gods later this month. Yesterday had been quite exciting, as I drove out to Vulcan to check out their Star Trek museum. Today, I ended up taking things easy: after a ten-kilometre walk, I enjoyed a homemade burger (whose flavours reminded me of summer), installed new curtains and finally got started on the Harukana Receive manga’s sixth, seventh and eighth volumes (which I’ve been waiting to read since November of last year). It’s a pleasant way to end the Labour Day Long Weekend, and with DOOM Eternal in the books, I look forwards to kicking off The Ancient Gods. In the meantime, the next major post I have scheduled for this month will be for Hanasaku Iroha and The Aquatope on White Sand: the latter will be a talk about the series at the halfway mark, and the former will be a special post celebrating the ten year anniversary.

The approach DOOM Eternal takes towards encouraging players to make full use of their arsenal and equipment is a rather clever reference to real life: while it is often the case that people specialise towards one role in reality, there is considerable desirability in possessing what is known as a T-shaped skillset. This describes individuals who have competence in a broad range of topics (the horizontal stroke in the character T) and have also simultaneously cultivated depth in one area to be very effective (the vertical stroke). Individuals with T-shaped skills can collaborate and contribute in a range of disciplines, while at the same time, offer expertise in one specific area. In DOOM Eternal, players necessarily must understand what every tool available does: if one were to go purely through the game with the super shotgun, they’d find themselves short of ammunition very quickly. However, understanding that the super shotgun can be combined with ice bombs, the meathook and ballista means being able to put together impromptu solutions for less-than-ideal situations. This is where DOOM Eternal‘s genius is: players are compelled to experiment and keep on their toes because one can never be too sure what the next combat situation is going to be. While one might have a preference for certain weapons, success is found by developing an understanding of the full toolset and effectively making use of it. Real life similarly is conducive for T-shaped individuals: having a good breadth and death of knowledge means being able to apply one’s expertise to help in other scenarios, as well as being able to draw on a wide range of problem-solving techniques to solve a particularly difficult challenge in one’s area. DOOM Eternal offers no room for sticking to one weapon type or one set of strategies: the game is fluid, and the tips offered work best in a situation where everything is contained. The moment one is dropped into an arena, it is no longer viable to play an optimal way. In this aspect, DOOM Eternal is masterfully done, since game design can also send a particular message to players. It is the case that one is only really successful when they learn to make use of all the tools and tricks available to them. DOOM Eternal’s combat mechanics remind players that they should get comfortable with being uncomfortable, a state which encourages people to learn and try new things in an eternal quest to improve.