The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Gaming

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands: Clearing The Heart Of Bolivia and The Road To New Challenges

“In our age, there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics’. All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.” –George Orwell

Flying over Bolivia, the dense jungles beneath suddenly give way to a rocky desert. All attention turns towards a convoy of trucks driving along one of the craggy roads, and I move ahead of the lead vehicle before setting down the helicopter. I equip my drone, manoeuvre it just in front of the truck carrying medical supplies, and fire off a crippling EMP blast, stopping the convoy cold in its tracks. Switching over to my BFG-50A, I disable the escort vehicles and pick off stragglers, finally securing the truck. Nomad Team comments on how the supplies will help the rebels out, and for my troubles, I gain more points to spend on an increasingly large library of skills that will make the journey towards apprehending El Sueño possible. With this goal done, I turn my attention to the evening’s next task: picking up a new weapon attachment located in a remote hut perched on the side of a mountain. Ghost Recon Wildlands has proceeded in this manner for the past few months, and outside of the story missions, my time spent in game has proven to be immensely cathartic as I gambol around the countryside, exploring to my heart’s content. It suddenly strikes me that, while Wildlands‘ main story and premise meant that the game invites political discussion, the open world environment and ability to proceed at my own pacing has meant that, outside of the tense moments during story missions and the dialogue that Nomad team exchanges with handler Olivia Bowman, the verdant jungles and remote mountains of Wildlands‘ Bolivia feels remarkably removed from the endless debates and discussions that characterises political discourse. The sharp contrast here in Wildlands offers credence to the idea that not all art and media is necessarily political; one’s thoughts are unlikely to be about how their actions may impact a policy-maker a continent away when they’re sneaking through a village by a tranquil-looking pond in search of Santa Blanca medals or weapon attachments.

Where Wildlands does have Nomad team conversing with Bowman about mission objectives, or the implications of the latest successful assignment, insight is given into Santa Blanca and how the player’s actions are affecting the bigger picture. Taking out a contingent of Santa Blanca submarines will cripple their ability to smuggle narcotics, while capturing a social media influencer stymies Santa Blanca’s ability to spread propaganda. Nomad’s actions yield a tangible change and slowly pave the path towards capturing El Sueño. It is important to note that it is through the player’s actions that advance things, and in this way, Wildlands (or any other game with a large political component) speaks to the fact that all change is the consequence of tangible action, rather than words. To this end, Wildlands shows that it is ultimately through the player’s actions and decisions that Santa Blanca’s hold over Bolivia is lessened, and to drive this point home, Bowman is operating in the field alongside Nomad, rather than directing the team from the comfort of an air-conditioned office in Langley. This is the case in reality: although the media gives the impression that politicians are getting material work done while in office, more often than not, the average politician accomplishes very little. Wildlands therefore acts as a show of how it is the people down in the weeds who get the most useful work done, even if they won’t be recognised for their contributions later. During one assignment, one of Nomad team comments on how it’d be nice to have a statue erected in their honour for what they’ve done to make the world a better place, only for another squad member to reply that as Ghost Recon units, they’re not supposed to exist, much less be remembered. The situation Nomad team’s members find themselves in is a mirror of reality: the people who get the work done and are deserving of the credit are also those whose contributions are forgotten as politicians and the media scramble to occupy the limelight. However, in spite of this, seeing that one’s work has a tangible, positive impact makes it worth doing, irrespective of whether or not one is credited, and virtue is its own reward. For me, it is sufficient to know that I did something that was of value to someone else, and it was therefore pleasant to see Wildlands mirroring this notion.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While I’ve been recently sidetracked by Modern Warfare II, still have yet to make my way through Metro: Exodus‘ DLC content and recently picked up a complementary copy of Star Wars: Squadrons through a promotion on the Epic Store, I’ve not forgotten my commitment to finish Wildlands to the best of my ability. Since last time, I’ve cleared out all of the three-star difficulty areas in Bolivia and have made some progress towards acquiring enough skills so I can take on the four and five star areas.

  • The four and five star areas don’t feature tougher enemies that can take more damage or hit harder, but instead, are more heavily patrolled. Santa Blanca and Unidad bases have more guard towers, alarm systems and generators, and they’ve got a more extensive network anti-air missiles. In these situations, having additional skills means being able to better identify where foes and points of interest are, before taking them out without being detected.

  • The EMP drone becomes an incredibly valuable tool in a player’s arsenal, since it can fly undetected into the heart of hostile territory and trigger an EMP that disables alarms. Once alarms are disabled, the patient player can then pick off snipers and methodically move into the base to complete their objectives. Three-star areas are the perfect place to practise one’s techniques, since the bases here are reasonably secure, but not so secure that any misstep will result in enemy helicopters being deployed to one’s area.

  • At present, I’m still currently using the MDR as my primary weapon, with the BFG-50A being an excellent secondary weapon – I’ve not made enough progress in Wildlands to begin the Fallen Ghosts expansion content, but the weapon unlocks this DLC provides are top tier. Although any other assault rifle could fulfil a similar role as the MDR does, there’s something about the MDR that makes it an especially appealing to use.

  • With the right gear and skills, Wildlands settled into a very relaxing pattern for me – I would go into a region in a helicopter and scout around to find all of the places where intel were, then pick up said intel. After I had an idea of where all of the campaign missions, skill points and weapon cases were, it was time to collect everything and finish the missions off. The variety of missions continued to impress, and there is actually more challenge in the missions where the objective isn’t to eliminate a target.

  • Beyond this, Nomad team’s objectives in Wildlands felt very cut-and-dried: in fact, listening to the exchange between the AI squad gave the distinct impression that for Nomad team, lighting up Santa Blanca cartel and Unidad alike was just another day at the office for these operators. While the dialogue is purely meant to create additional immersion, it did get me thinking, and this is what eventually led to the choice of topic for this post.

  • From the sounds of things, Nomad team is simply carrying out an assignment. While they’re special operators that act in the interests of the United States, despite being given near total freedom in how they go about finishing their work, their goal is simply to serve their nation by following orders. For Nomad team, politics is unlikely at the forefront of their thoughts when they’re sneaking through the jungle to avoid detection, or flying over from one spot to another. Being professionals, Nomad team is more worried about getting their job done, and while some moments do have them asking questions, for the most part, Nomad team sees their work the same way the typical person sees their own occupations.

  • This got me thinking: on a day-to-day basis, I’m not worried about politics or current events. Instead, I’m concerned most about what my tasks are, and how to get those done. While I do think about the bigger picture where required (e.g. ahead of meetings), for the most part, my focus on the typical day is implementing a given feature or sorting out a bug. This is partly because after a hard day’s work, the mind is in need of some rest and relaxation. Talking about current events is the polar opposite of this: political discussions can become very heated, and arguing with people is very draining, so the well-exercised mind tends to avoid these sorts of things .

  • There’s little time to be worried about what’s happening halfway around the world, and at the end of the day, I only read the news so I’ve got basic awareness of what’s happening. I’ve never understood why some people are so insistent on making their opinions of current events known to others, but after looking around, it turns out there’s one combination of traits that makes it seem like politics is a bigger deal than it is.

  • People without a focus or tangible objective in their lives may latch onto perceived problems and devote themselves into voicing concern for said issues. This happens because the human mind is inherently wired towards problem-solving and overcoming difficulties, so where there are no challenges to face, the mind may fabricate challenges to keep busy. This is the origin of the axiom, “idle hands are the devil’s workshop”; individuals with nothing to do might channel that restlessness into unproductive or harmful activities.

  • Coupled with the fact that social media makes it possible for most anyone to have an audience, the elements are in place for a social problem. While social media is not inherently evil, the problems it brought to the table resulted from the fact that ordinary people could suddenly become someone of note through virality. Traditionally, anyone who came to prominence did so because they were exceptional in their field and had the right amount of luck. On the other hand, social media algorithms pick content that elicits the most reactions, and since people tend to investigate the most emotionally charged content, polarising, shocking and misleading materials tends to be promoted. It is no joke when I note that a lot of folks out there don’t deserve their followers or audience.

  • The end result of this is that social media, far from being a meritocratic platform where the most useful content becomes visible, ended up becoming a place where extremist rhetoric and misinformation dominated. Those who post such materials do so not because they wish to legitimately inform, but because they believe they are owed an audience and validation. The combination of extreme opinions and a desire for attention results in an endless stream of online vitriol, one where there is no room for moderation. Perspectives such as mine are inevitably drowned out, and there is little opportunity to learn about sides to an argument that isn’t my own.

  • This phenomenon isn’t limited to social media, as online forums see disagreement of similar proportions. At TV Tropes, for instance, some members believed that the presence of like-minded individuals who enjoy writing lists of media tropes should have meant that any discussion on politics and current events at TV Tropes would automatically “[leave] one intellectually simulated, knowing [the users] had a productive and entertaining conversation”. In reality, the idea of any conversation at TV Tropes being intellectually stimulating is dubious at best because a vast majority of TV Tropes’ userbase lacks any real-world experience. As a result, most of the political and current events topics rapidly devolve into pandemonium as a result of users pushing their worldviews over others, versus making a sincere effort to communicate and understand other perspectives.

  • Similarly, over at AnimeSuki, political “discourse” isn’t very helpful. One “mangamuscle” operates under the belief that intelligent discussion consists of calling political leaders names and constantly reiterating that certain nations are evil. While those mangamuscle and similar-minded people believe themselves to be engaged in legitimate discussion, people like these are why I hold that a disinterest in politics most certainly doesn’t render one less intelligent or knowledgable: I hardly consider name-calling to be a hallmark of a “productive and entertaining” conversation.

  • Generally speaking, whether individuals participate in internet discussions about politics or current events, unless there is a clear desire to listen and learn from all parties, I’ve found that it’s best not to participate at all. Avoiding those who aim to shock and anger, and those who presume to lecture, isn’t especially difficult – most of the time, people post extreme content in the hope of driving engagement and validation, so if one isn’t going to reply, retweet or vote, then it would show both the originator and viewers that a given idea simply isn’t worth even the simple click of a mouse. At scale, the originator may eventually lose interest in the topic if they aren’t getting the desired reaction from posting about things.

  • More tricky to handle are those individuals who have an agenda to push and a formal background in political sciences or similar – one user who frequents both TV Tropes and AnimeSuki has made it a point of posting news articles that denigrate or are highly critical of one of the world’s nations. While I’m no stranger to this behaviour, the individual in question has stated that they’re currently pursuing a Master’s of Strategic Studies at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore and plan on a career in defense intelligence, with the hope of joining the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) one day. Given their career goals, I get the feeling that one of their goals is to try and influence forum members into sharing their own beliefs.

  • Because individuals like these appear to look like they know what they’re talking about, one may be tempted to agree with them: someone enrolled in strategic studies will constantly be working with military and security issues, and therefore have a strong knowledge of the area. Unfortunately, if one also possesses a very firmly-held set of biases, this can be highly detrimental – their background allows them to be confident in their knowledge, but at the same time, they would also refuse to hear out other opinions, especially from those outside of the field. Individuals like these are therefore ill-suited for any sort of decision-making role at CSIS; if their decision-making is guided by ideology rather than fact, the public will inevitably come to harm.

  • As a result, I cannot say I’m inclined to see this individual succeed in their aspirations. It is admittedly frustrating that some people strive to make a career of promoting untruths, but at the same time, I also acknowledge that there are simply not enough hours in the day to concern myself with these sorts of things. Posts like these are about the extent that I’ll write about outside of my area of interest – my typical modus operandi is to look at the shows and games I like, but occasionally, I find that it is helpful for me to get my thoughts on topics like where I stand on talking about politics and current events here.

  • The short of it is that no, I won’t be sharing my thoughts on the things that go on in the world, and when I do write about politics, it will be strictly within the realm of whatever work I am discussing. For instance, I am willing to share my thoughts on the narcotics trade and government responses to it in the context of Wildlands, but I won’t delve into my thoughts on the Canadian government’s legalisation of cannabis. I do not believe I can offer a vigorous, satisfactory account of why I hold the beliefs that I do in the blog post format, and for this reason, I tend to avoid bringing up current events.

  • When it does come to something I am knowledgable about, I am much more willing to explain myself. For instance, I am a major proponent of the delegation pattern in iOS development because it allows me to pass information between view controllers sharing a common navigation controller, and the approach, when done correctly, results in clean code (in turn improving maintainability and readability). This is something I can defend because I have experience in the area. Thus, in order to avoid troubling readers with ideas I’m not an expert in, I choose not to mention about real-world politics and the like within my posts.

  • With this, I hope to have given readers a satisfactory account of why I don’t talk about politics here. In my twelve plus years of blogging, this approach has served me well enough, and I therefore see little incentive to change things up. It’s more fun to talk about the things that I enjoy doing, and here, I will remark that Wildlands has a considerable amount of activities in it. Even in the regions I’ve cleared, there are plenty of secondary missions to complete, and they offer rewards that help with gameplay. Completing all of them will take a considerable amount of time, and I’ve determined that it is probably more time-effective if I were to complete enough of the secondary missions to get at the skills best suited for my style and move on to the tougher regions.

  • On several occasions, I have previously ventured into the four and five star regions unintentionally – this happens when I’m pursuing a convoy, and while I usually end up capturing my target, the problems would show up if I foolishly decided it’d be a good idea to also raid a nearby Unidad or Santa Blanca base. In this way, I would get my face pasted into the ground, and while at this point, I’ve dumped enough skill points into the AI squad tree so that I can get two revives, dying in a place where it’s not feasible to be revived and safely get out has left me wishing for a “skip revive” option at times.

  • Outside of these most harrowing of moments, I am free to explore Bolivia at my own pace. Previously, the game had looked amazing on a GTX 1060, but with everything maxed out on an RTX 3060 Ti, the visuals look almost photorealistic. Over the past few months, NVIDIA’s Lovelace high-end GPUs have launched, and more recently, news of the RTX 4060 Ti have reached my ears. Assuming the rumours are correct, the RTX 4060 Ti is supposed to perform similarly to an RTX 3070 and sell for the exact same price point of 499 USD. In this case, the RTX 4060 Ti would be completely underwhelming – the RTX 3060 Ti had retailed for 399 USD and is almost as performant as the RTX 2080 Super, an impressive leap in technology.

  • Similarly, the GTX 1060 had been impressive because it had around 90 percent of the GTX 980’s performance for half the price. As such, when it is possible that the RTX 4060 Ti will only match a RTX 3070 in performance and demand the same cost, there is little incentive to wait for the Lovelace series. All of the news means that my decision to pick up my current video card back in September was a good decision, and the RTX 3060 Ti is expected to last me a very long time. Out of curiosity, I took a gander to see if the MSI Gaming X variant of the card I had was still available, and it seems that they are completely sold out now.

  • Weather patterns do impact Wildlands, and one can find themselves in the midst of a rainstorm even from perfectly clear skies like these. I remember that during my time spent in the open beta, rain had hit me almost immediately after clearing the first mission, and Wildlands had been detailed enough to render players’ clothing becoming wet from the rainfall. For my screenshots, however, I prefer taking them under clear skies: Bolivia looks wonderful, and the deep blue skies evokes a summer-like feeling. While playing under full daylight means that stealth becomes trickier, they do make for easier screenshots. On the other hand, if there’s a high-stakes mission, I will reset the map and wait for nightfall before beginning an assignment.

  • Side-missions in Wildlands are fun, and give players a chance to let loose: on most missions, having a suppressor is mandatory to preserve stealth and avoid alerting foes to one’s presence. There is a skill upgrade that results in suppressed weapons dealing identical damage to unsuppressed weapons, and by this point in Wildlands, I’ve unlocked it, so there’s actually no need to ever remove my suppressors. With this being said, there is something satisfying about going loud. Some of the rebel-related missions do entail fighting off waves of Santa Blanca enforcers, and it is here where I find the most use for an unsuppressed LMG.

  • When free-roaming, I tend to run the BFG-50A without a suppressor: the gun is the hardest-hitting rifle in the whole of Wildlands, and its report when firing reflects the sheer amount of damage this weapon can do. This gun has been a game-changer, and coupled with the fact I’ve maxed out my anti-vehicle damage, air vehicles are no longer a problem for me. Similarly, I can leave an entire convoy of foes as a smouldering ruin without much difficulty.

  • In a manner of speaking, the Fallen Ghosts DLC has allowed me to play Wildlands with increased flexibility, and this has, in turn, allowed me to progress at a smarter pace. With this being said, however, my map indicates that I’ve actually yet to deal with any of the higher-ranking Santa Blanca members. I imagine that for some of the buchons, some of the missions won’t entail any shooting, so I am curious to see how things turn out once I clear out the rest of Bolivia’s tougher areas. I have a feeling that it is better to clear out all of the buchons, versus just taking down enough to force El Sueño’s hand.

  • The takeaway from this jumble of a post is simple enough – I don’t like participating in online discussions of current event owing to the overwhelming ignorance and prejudices out there (as mangamuscle of AnimeSuki has been kind enough to demonstrate), and I see no reason to mention my own opinions regarding current events in a given blog post because they are neither here nor there. Beyond this, I do appreciate how Wildlands does suggest that politics or not, it is ultimately individual action that makes the difference, and as such, I find myself excited to continue on with this game.

  • The missions ahead will certainly be trickier than anything I’ve faced up until now, but at the same time, I’ve also got access to a wide array of skills and a better understanding of my arsenal. With this being said, these are interesting times – Battlefield 2042 has reintroduced the class system and implemented something in line with what I’d been hoping for, while Modern Warfare II just announced a new Japan-themed DMZ map, and while I’ve no previous DMZ experience, the map is intriguing enough for me to give it a go. I’ve also reached the halfway point in Sam’s Story in Metro Exodus‘ expansion content, and things have kept me quite engaged. I am, in short, very busy, but I should definitely make some time to push further in Wildlands – I’ve been itching to go back to Montuyoc, and it does look as though I’ve got the weapons and skills needed to survive there.

Longtime readers will likely wonder why I do not discuss current events, specifically, federal policy and foreign affairs here, even where some of the topics I write about are more conducive towards such conversations. The main reason behind this is that as a blogger, I have a responsibility to readers. My aims are to be truthful and fair, and political discourse stands contrary to these goals because, in the absence of any vigorous evidence, anything I state is strictly opinion. This blog’s core focus are anime and games, and while I may occasionally offer some of my thoughts on the systems anime and games present, stepping into things like foreign affairs is outside the scope of my discussion: readers come here to see what I make of a character and their place in a given story, or perhaps pick up trivia on the differences between a Barrett M82A1 and an M95. Beyond this, it is not my place to rattle off my personal beliefs and demand viewers listen to said beliefs, especially since I am no expert in many of the things I hold an opinion in. At the opposite end of the spectrum, some hold that they have an obligation to talk about politics because these matters impact them in some way. While is true to a limited extent, talking about things on social media or forums won’t change anything, and instead, my only obligations are to keep abreast of things and respond accordingly. I find that folks who spend a considerable amount of time writing about their beliefs online are doing the least amount of useful work while at the same time, making the largest effort in an attempt to look relevant. Simply put, people who do not spend time on forums, Reddit or Twitter trying to persuade others of their beliefs or spreading a certain brand of thought, have more time to get legitimate work done. As Wildlands suggests, those who prefer maintaining a low profile and fulfilling their obligations are the folks who will affect positive change most effectively, and even if they’re not going to be recognised or celebrated for their contributions, the importance of their actions cannot be understated.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II- The Road to the Vault Edition, Killtacular and Killing Frenzy in Invasion

“Memo: regarding Activision roadmap. Lie, keep players waiting, sweat them out for maximum money.”

Although Call of Duty has accrued a somewhat undeserved reputation for being the game of choice for players who prefer to spout expletive-laden rants into the voice chat over the years or scoring the so-called “360 no-scope”, 2019’s Modern Warfare had turned things around by building a new title around the IW engine, and since then, the Call of Duty franchise has also drawn in more ordinary players. Following Modern Warfare II‘s open beta, curiosity led me to venture into a realm of the franchise I’ve previously expressed no interest in playing through: the high-paced gameplay in earlier Call of Duty games, coupled with a wildly inconsistent game engine, and a community whose reputation precedes it, meant that players like myself would not likely find things enjoyable. However, Modern Warfare II has turned things around: in offering Invasion and Ground War on top of more traditional offerings, the extraction-royale mode DMZ, and Warzone II, it does feel as though Activision has, through Modern Warfare II, provided players with a plethora of experiences such that everyone can enjoy the game in the manner of their own choosing. Die-hard Call of Duty players will gravitate towards close-quarters modes like TDM and Domination, while Warzone fans have begun their journey into Warzone II and DMZ. On the other hand, I’ve found a considerable amount of enjoyment in the Invasion mode; Invasion is basically a large-scale TDM mode where players and AI bots fight it out in an open environment. While the presence of AI bots and the propensity of the typical match to devolve into a sniper-versus-sniper engagement, Invasion remains one of Modern Warfare II‘s most effective ways of dropping into a map and capitalising on the chaotic environment to level up one’s weapons. While the long sightlines enemy snipers have, coupled with the poor spawn system makes deaths especially aggravating, there is also a surprising amount of fun to have in the Invasion mode; the larger maps mean that one can practise their counter-sniping skills, and focus on improving weapons that excel in the medium to long ranges.

The simplicity of the Invasion mode has made it an especially appealing mode for a beginner such as myself: the only object is to score kills. A mixture of AI bots and human players populate the map. Only kills scored against human foes contribute to one’s score streaks, but every kill helps level one’s weapons, and with the AI bots being quite limited, it is possible to wade through an entire group of bots and come out with a new attachment or option for one’s active weapon. This is especially helpful, since all new guns start with their attachment slots locked, and every weapon must be levelled up in order for these slots to become available. While most weapons are quite usable in their base state, the lack of sights can be quite a challenge, especially for medium range combat, so being able to swiftly level one’s weapons up and get their preferred sights onto a gun can quickly turn a difficult-to-use weapon into something that is more manageable. Modern Warfare II has one additional change that makes the game significantly easier for newer players: weapons of a certain category often share attachments, and unlocking an attachment for one weapon makes it available to use for another. Together, this means that, if players were to unlock a new weapon and reach the requisite level to equip sights, they can immediately pick from a pool of sights they’re most comfortable with, rather than being limited to a sight one may not prefer using. The sum of these two mechanics means that acclimatising to new weapons has been quite straightforward, and in this way, I’m slowly making progress with the weapons available to me. The new gunsmith system in Modern Warfare II, despite an outwardly complex design, has streamlined weapons progression and set the bar for how first person shooters should approach weapon progression and unlocks. Within the space of thirty five hours, I’ve reached level fifty-five and built up a varied arsenal of weapons, where some of which are suited for Invasion, and others are better suited for close-quarters of more traditional modes.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • After completing the campaign, all players gain access to the “Union Guard” M4 blueprint. This M4 is tuned to be more accurate at the expense of reduced damage at range, but in practise, it proved to be the perfect weapon for starting out. Modern Warfare II provides new players with four different loadout options, but after players reach level four, they can begin creating and customising their own loadouts. The M4 is the best weapon to focus on in the beginning, since it’s a balanced weapon that has fair accuracy, damage and handling traits.

  • Because of long sight lines and open spaces, the best way to play Invasion is to equip the Overkill perk for the ability to carry a second primary weapon, and then bring a sniper rifle to the game. In the beginning, players will only have access to the MCPR-300. Despite being a somewhat unwieldy rifle with a slow aiming down sight speed, this rifle and its .300 ammunition makes it a fine choice for getting used to the sniping mechanics in Modern Warfare II. The base rifle is competitive enough to go up against snipers with better gear, but over time, the weapon can be customised to accentuate its strengths.

  • For the first little while, the MCPR-300 and M4 were my go-to weapons for invasion, and even with just the basic weapons, I was able to hold my own against more experienced players who were running loadouts that were better suited for their style. I’ve been referring to this as the “stock weapons paradigm” for about a decade: a game is fair to players if the starting weapons available are effective and balanced, and then any new weapons and attachments alter a weapon’s performance to fit a specific style. For instance, some players may prefer to give up ranged performance for close quarters effectiveness.

  • In my case, I would have likely benefitted from an assault rifle that was better suited for close quarters in the beginning, since I was already carrying a long-range weapon in the MCPR-300. With this in mind, the Union Guard is still effective enough to get me out of a bind, and this allowed me to start off strong. Over time, I got the M4 to the maximum level possible, and this unlocked weapon tuning, as well as several assignments for the mastery skins. At the time of writing, I’ve not bothered with doing any of the mastery challenges yet, since my focus is on unlocking all of the weapons.

  • The use of killstreaks/scorestreaks in Invasion is a double-edged sword. It is frustrating to be at the receiving end of one, since one can seemingly die without any apparent reason, but on the flipside, using a killstreak/scorestreak allows one to rack up points on short order. Here, I managed to take out two players using the SAE airstrike option. Early in the game, the killstreaks I had available to me were limited: by default, players start with the UAV, Cruise Missile and SAE airstrike, and while the other killstreaks are definitely exciting to use, the humble UAV has the most utility.

  • Early on, I only had access to the default loadouts, but farming the AI bots in Invasion gave me a considerable boost in levelling my weapons. While each kill against an AI bot only yields one point that count towards team score, it still gives full experience points that count towards weapon usage. Early in a match, the AI bots don’t have any armour, and some of them go down in a single shot from any weapon: if one can reach a helicopter as they’re fast-roping down, it is possible to clear them out entirely. Repeating the process several times will yield a considerable amount of experience points that help one to level their weapons.

  • Of course, the biggest challenge about Invasion is the fact that human players sometimes blend into the AI bot, and if one isn’t careful, one can be felled by a sneaky player concealed amongst the AI bots. Human players are difficult to distinguish from the AI bots at first glance: the AI bots might have simplistic pathfinding and decision-making behaviours, but players running basic operators can appear similar enough so that one can’t reasonably prioritise them over the AI. This aspect of Invasion was admittedly the most frustrating: the poor spawn positions mean that if one is killed at an inopportune moment, there’s going to be a considerable amount of sprinting needed to get back into things.

  • On the other hand, when things line up, one can also score consecutive kills against human foes. The larger maps in Invasion allow me to get a kill or two, retreat, and then find another position to engage from. In this way, I was able to go on a few killstreaks of my own. I’ve long avoided Call of Duty‘s multiplayer because of the game’s reputation for a player base that plays the game to an unhealthy extent, and any novice player, like myself, would find themselves instantly melted if they made even a single misstep.

  • In practise, while there are several mechanics in Call of Duty that I wasn’t accustomed to, playing with a more tactical, methodical mindset, and making use of all the tools available to me, was enough to help me keep up with things. Initially, I utilised the deployable cover to create makeshift sniper positions, and this helped me to get the MCPR-300 levelled up: Invasion is a mode fraught with snipers, and the very same conditions that make the mode a nightmare for close quarters players make it favourable for doing some counter-sniping.

  • Over time, as I became more comfortable with Modern Warfare II‘s mechanics, specifically the reload times and sprint-to-fire delay, I became more consistent in my gameplay, and found myself levelling up with regularity, to the point where I actually reached rank fifty-five and unlocked the last of the options in the game. It hit me that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to pick up the Vault Edition upgrade to further my experience a little, and over the course of the break, I wound up making the purchase. The Vault Edition adds a few more operators to Modern Warfare II, gives access to the Cinder weapon vault, and provides instant access to the Battle Pass, as well.

  • While I’m not terribly interested in cosmetics per se, the weapon blueprints that accompany the Battle Pass allow me to immediately equip weapons I’ve otherwise not unlocked yet, and allows me to get a feel for a weapon. Being able to use the Lachmann Sub before I’ve gotten the Lachmann platform levelled has given me a glimpse of what some weapons are like, and similarly, since some sidearm blueprints are provided, I’ve been able to use a fully-kitted sidearm to complete certain weapon challenges more easily.

  • Admittedly, running around in Invasion’s been remarkably enjoyable, and this game mode ended up changing my mind about Modern Warfare II during the open beta. Now that I’ve had some experience in Invasion, I decided to give the “Shipment” playlist a whirl. Unlike Invasion, which favours long range weapons, Modern Warfare II‘s close quarters map are ideally suited for submachine guns and shotguns. After unlocking the Fennec 45, I gave this weapon a go and found it a suitable choice. I also began levelling the Expedite 12 shotgun to unlock a thermal optic.

  • Having thermal optics in Invasion is helpful in some cases: the enemy helicopters will drop smoke before deploying their AI forces, and having thermal optics allows one to discern them through the smoke. Similarly, enemy operators will emit a thermal signature unless they’ve got the Cold Blooded perk equipped, and this makes the thermal optics a suitable choice for quickly spotting where foes are, especially if they’re concealed in the buildings of a map. However, I found that even with standard optics on a sniper rifle, I was able to perform well enough.

  • In this way, I went on a few streaks of my own throughout the course of the time I’d spent in Invasion – owing to how maps are designed, they’re a sniper’s dream, and the practise of picking off some foes and moving on allowed me to stay alive long enough for these streaks. Slowly improving over time in a game is a part of the fun. I’d taken a bit of a break from PvP since support Battlefield V ended, and since then, I’ve focused more on PvE experiences. Getting back into things, it looks like I still retain enough of my old skill to remain somewhat competitive against players with more time to spend on PvP.

  • While gaming as a hobby isn’t quite as productive as something like cooking, lifting weights or hiking at first glance, it does help one to unwind if they’re in the right mindset. Gaming competitively can be extremely stressful and taxing, and one can place undue strain on themselves if their aim is to maintain a high KDR or win-loss ratio. On the other hand, since my hiatus on PvP gaming, I’ve come to play with a much more relaxed mentality. Winning and losing is irrelevant, as is scoring more kills than dying. Instead, my only focus is exploring a map and levelling the weapons I have available to me.

  • Matches are short enough for me to play a few before turning my attention to other things, and in this way, Modern Warfare II has become a solid way of taking it easy. It’s certainly a great deal more entertaining than spending my time at AnimeSuki – as a part of my New Year’s resolutions, I have determined that my time at this particular forum has drawn to a close. While AnimeSuki has seen me converse with some insightful individuals over the years, most of the community members I’ve had the best conversations with have since become inactive. The AnimeSuki users that remain care more about politics than anime, and most of these discussions have been remarkably biased, uneducated and based on emotion rather than fact.

  • Watching the same people waffle on about pan-Asian politics day in, day out, grows tiresome fast, and the anime-related talk there hasn’t been any better. The last straw came with the thread on the Yuru Camp△ Movie, where one member believed that the fact that Rin and the others were still single was unrealistic, enough to be a “flaw” worth criticising. When I presented hard evidence indicating that relationship percentages in Japan were similar to what was seen in the Yuru Camp△ Movie, making said criticisms invalid, my counterarguments were dismissed as “pointless” and “silly”. Ignoring evidence because it doesn’t suit one’s worldview speaks very poorly to the state of things at AnimeSuki, and such attitudes shows that the people there care little about having a proper conversation.

  • Not all of my time at AnimeSuki was negative – during Girls und Panzer‘s run, I had some excellent discussions with Wild Goose, and during Brave Witches and High School Fleet‘s run, I befriended Flower, a moderator who would share many conversations with me off-site later down the line. Because these members have gone their separate ways, and because nowadays, I’m able to have more significantly more productive conversations with folks here, as well as with the Jon Spencer Community, I am able to continue enjoying enlightening discussions with people. Considering that the standards for conversation at AnimeSuki have dropped over the years (I’ve had disciplinary action taken against my account, because to relentlessflame, refuting the opinions of a popular member is equivalent to a personal attack), there isn’t value for me to stick around.

  • On the off chance that someone finds this post and calls for me to be banned, I’m not going to lose any sleep over this. I’ve never really spent too much time posting at AnimeSuki, and while the site had once been popular for hosting torrents, the only active component of AnimeSuki now are the forums, and the readership there is quite light: I’ve seen many questionable opinions there over the years, but knowing most of those opinions won’t be given any additional exposure or support (in today’s terms, “signal boosting”) means there’s no need for me to get caught up in things again. With the small bit of time I do gain back, I can spend it on unwinding, or otherwise levelling up my gear in Modern Warfare II.

  • The other mode in Modern Warfare II, besides Invasion, is Ground War, the Call of Duty equivalent of conquest. I’ve never given it a go for myself, but now that I’ve got a more varied arsenal available to me, I do have more confidence in knowing that I can hit the ground running with the tools that I’m familiar with. One of the thing people have suggested doing in Ground War is to hop into a vehicle and capture points. The resulting experience points then help one to level their weapons rapidly.

  • Although I don’t have any screenshots of the new weapons from the Battle Pass in this post, I have been giving some of them a go: the addition of new Blueprints earned from the Battle Pass has allowed me to equip weapons I otherwise don’t have unlocked, and in turn, begin levelling them up so I can unlock new attachments. The gunsmith in Modern Warfare II is a straight upgrade over the system in Modern Warfare, and one thing I really like is how the unlocks are shared. This made it significantly easier to begin using new weapons once they became available: when I picked up the Kastov 762, after the initial hurdle of unlocking the weapon sight category, I had immediate access to the sights from the M4.

  • During one match, I ended up scoring a quad kill while using the SAE killstreak that I looted off a care package that dropped mid-game. Multi-kills in Modern Warfare II will depend on the mode and map – in Invasion, it’s a little more difficult to take out players simply because they’re scattered about, but close-quarters maps will be chaotic, and a combination of skill and luck will be enough for one to consistently score multi-kills. For these feats, the best weapon attachments include magazine upgrades that improve ammunition capacity at the expense of reload time and handling.

  • On the other hand, long killstreaks are more difficult in close-quarters matches, whereas in modes like Invasion, it’s possible to pick foes off and then relocate. During one match, I managed a ten-streak, and according to my stats, my best streak is eleven, which I am confident that I would’ve achieved during Invasion. At a fifteen-streak, players gain access to the Juggernaut bonus, which gives access to a heavy suit of armour and a man-portable M134 Minigun. While this killstreak bonus is nice, the other streaks are a ways more practical.

  • As I began unlocking more weapons, I gained access to both the SP-R 208 and the SA-B 50. These are the marksman rifles, which offer better handling and a little less stopping power compared to the sniper rifles (they require two body shots per kill, whereas the sniper rifles only need one). In the beginning, I struggled to get the SP-R 208 to work since it comes with only the iron sights, but once I was able to put some optics on it, the weapon immediately became more usable, and it was actually with the SP-R 208 that I got my eleven-streak. In a high-paced game like Modern Warfare II, the marksman rifles are best suited for players with sure aim: they can still one-shot players with a headshot.

  • My interest in the SA-B 50 came purely from the fact that it offers an IRNV optic: from a performance standpoint, the SP-R 208 is unmatched, with excellent handling characteristics. Of course, there is one other advantage to levelling the SA-B 50: progressing this marksman rifle far enough will earn the SP-X 80. Similarly, I will be looking at getting the SP-R 208 levelled up, as well, since pushing this weapon to level sixteen will yield the LA-B 330, which strikes a balance between handling and damage. In the meantime, I’ve gotten a better measure of how the marksman rifles handle, and along the way, also became more comfortable with landing headshots out to a range of ninety metres with naught more than the iron sights.

  • The Steam Winter Sale ends tomorrow, and looking back at the Vault Edition purchase, it does look like it was worthwhile to do so. This is actually where the page quote comes from – it’s a variant of a line from The Raccoons. In the episode “Black Belt Bentley”, Cyril learns that another soda distributor, Delicious Drinks, plans to employ the same strategy as he did, by lowering his prices to rock bottom and forcing the sale of other companies to Sneer Enterprises. Once he had a stranglehold on the market, Cyril planned to raise prices. Because the pigs end up writing some software to help Cyril run things, one of his own subsidiaries, Delicious Drinks, ends up preventing a takeover.

  • This ends up giving Cyril some degree of trouble, and when he heads over to Delicious Drinks, he finds a memo on the president’s desk, promising to “sweat him out for maximum money“. The phrase “maximum money” sounds hilarious, and with all the cosmetics and DLC out there, it definitely feels as though video game publishers intend to sweat players out for maximum money. In some cases, it’s not necessary to spend any money, but if one is having a good time with a game, as I did for Modern Warfare II, a few extra dollars to further one’s experience couldn’t hurt.

  • In my case, the fact that the Steam Winter Sale was running simply made the decision easier – buying anything during a sale accelerates the acquisition of cards, and every sale, I make it a point of levelling the seasonal card at least once. Although this exercise is purely cosmetic, I do find it quite fun. Back here, in a later game of Invasion, I’ve switched over to the FTAC Recon, a battle rifle variant of the M4. With excellent all-around performance, this weapon handles quite well at medium ranges. During one match, I ended up going on a short killstreak and picked up a bonus cruise missile to supplement my other cruise missile.

  • At present, I’ve just reached level fifty five, and that means I’ve got all of the level-related unlocks available to me. Together with a fair spread of weapons, I’m well equipped to play a variety of modes now, and this means trying Ground War out. I’d been hoping that custom loadouts would be available in modes like DMZ or Spec Ops, but I’ve heard that those modes give players separate loadouts to utilise. Once my best friend gets up to speed with things, it would be nice to play Spec Ops and DMZ as a squad.

  • I’ll round this post off with a triple kill I scored using the SAE, and with my first gaming-related post of the year in the books, it’s time to look at what this month will entail. I have plans to write about Bocchi The Rock! in the near future, as well as plans to revisit 2013’s Vividred Operation a decade after its airing. The two seasonal anime I’m actively following are Bofuri‘s second season and Mō Ippon!. Both are airing later next week, and I’ll write about them once three episodes for both are out. I will be writing about Uzaki-chan Wants To Hang Out! ω; this series proved quite enjoyable, a cut above its predecessor, and that makes it worth looking at. Finally, I will aim to start Lycoris Recoil and get a talk on that for February, which looks like a quiet month for blogging.

The spread of human players and AI bots means that in most matches, it is less likely that one is feeling like they’re being singled out by an opponent, and the chaos in the typical Invasion match results in a slightly more easy-going experience: although aggressive skill-based match-making (SBMM) is present, even in a game where I’m completely unable to do anything, there is still a chance to get one of my weapons ranked up and become closer to unlocking an attachment of interest. The impersonal nature of Invasion makes it the perfect mode for simple fun, and although the larger maps favour longer-range weapons, it represents a fantastic avenue of levelling a weapon far enough where it can be useful in the other game modes, as well as becoming comfortable with using equipment, perks and scorestreaks in Modern Warfare II‘s other modes. While there can be frustrating moments in Invasion (SBMM is very unforgiving, and if I score more than a 1.5 KDR in a given match, I will be placed into lobbies with the sort of players who play for more than eight hours a day), the fact that Modern Warfare II has provided a mode which incentivises me to return and have a good time speaks volumes to how far Infinity Ward has come. As a result of my experiences, I’ve reached rank fifty-five and have all of the unlocks acquired. This is something I’ve never thought possible of a Call of Duty game, and now that I’ve got a good measure of how the game’s mechanics handle, it is not lost on me that, since my best friend ended up with a complementary copy of Modern Warfare II, it is possible for us to explore the DMZ mode or complete Spec Ops assignments together where time allows. Of course, to help with the process, and because Modern Warfare II has exceeded expectations despite technical issues and an aggressive SBMM system, I’ve elected to pick up the Vault Edition upgrade, which looks to help me with expanding out my arsenal and experience in Modern Warfare II.

Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown × Top Gun: Maverick, Reflections on A Remarkable Collaboration and Some Thoughts on The Last Day of The Year

“Why are the wings coming out, Mav?” –Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw, Top Gun: Maverick

Back in June, Project Aces did a collaboration with Top Gun: Maverick that added the iconic aircraft from the film into Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown. This expansion provides the F-14A Tomcat, the custom variant that Maverick and Rooster steal from the enemy airbase, the F/A-18E single seater and another custom variant that Maverick flies during the training exercise. In addition, this aircraft pack also comes with the Su-57 fifth-generation fighter and the Darkstar prototype. On top of this, players also gain aircraft cosmetics based on themes from Maverick. While the cost of this expansion is a little pricey when one considers the amount of content one receives in the package, being able to relive iconic moments from Maverick and replicate them in the context of Skies Unknown is worth the price of admissions, and ultimately, I ended up picking it up during the Steam Winter Sale. Upon installing this add-on content and trying the new aircraft out, it soon becomes clear that these aircraft each possess unique attributes that make them a phenomenal way of extending one’s Skies Unknown experience. The Darkstar’s biggest attribute is its speed. Together with its pulse lasers, one is basically flying a starfighter capable of moving faster than any aircraft in the game. The fifth generation fighters are a variant of the base Su-57, but now equip a wider range of special missiles. The Top Gun exclusive F-14A and F/A-18E fighters have been tuned up, allowing them to go toe-to-toe with the ADF-11F Raven in a dogfight, and provide the sort of manoeuvrability for reproducing the canyon run that is beyond the capabilities of most planes. In trying out the aircraft accompanying the Maverick set, familiar missions in Skies Unknown suddenly offer players with a new experience as the different aircraft and their capabilities alter the way one approaches a mission. This gives incentive to revisit old missions and see how the new aircraft handle; during my return to several of Skies Unknown‘s tougher missions using the Maverick aircraft, it became clear that the cost of entry was worthwhile. While the aircraft themselves outwardly are simple reskins (the only all-new aircraft is Darkstar), in terms of handling, the new aircraft are smoother and more responsive than most of the other planes available, giving players confidence to fly and perform the same manoeuvres that Maverick, Rooster, Phoenix, Payback and Hangman perform during the events of Maverick.

Top Gun: Maverick stands as one of the greatest films of the 2020s so far, and it is rare for a sequel to outshine its predecessor, but Maverick has managed to do so. The film completely captures the thrill of flight while simultaneously remaining respectful to the original movie, and some of the scenes have very quickly become iconic to the point where the fertile mind, with an active imagination, would yearn to re-enact them. When Top Gun originally released in 1986, it inspired some viewers to become naval pilots. Today, the advancement of computer hardware and graphics means that for most folks, it is now possible to experience the same suspense and exhilaration that Maverick and his pilots find while flying their mission in Maverick. There is no better game than Ace Combat for such an experience: while it’s an arcade combat simulator and therefore provides distinct mechanics to ensure players have a fun time in the game, the same rush of being able to get behind the stick of a multi-million dollar flying machine and doing some work with it is conveyed. It was therefore unsurprising that a collaborative project would be made, in which Ace Combat and Top Gun crossed over to provide a means of giving players a tangible way of reliving their favourite moments from the film, or seeing how the film’s most recognisable aircraft might handle in the Strangereal universe during the course of the Lighthouse War. Overall, this experience was equivalent to picking up model aircraft and running around in a field with some mates re-enacting the same; as a child, I used to run around on the school playground, pretending it was the “Facility” map from GoldenEye 007, and I imagine that after Top Gun, excited children would’ve done the same in playing pretend dogfights with their toy aircraft. Ace Combat has simply allowed players to do the same in a different manner, and the Maverick package allows one to evoke memories of a simpler time and re-live their favourite film moments, making it a worthwhile purchase.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • In practise, the Darkstar hypersonic stealth fighter is the single fastest aircraft available in the game to players: with the right parts, Darkstar can even outrun missiles. The trade-off is that handling and manoeuvrability become limited at high speeds, so using the aircraft becomes an exercise in skill as pilots must constantly keep an eye on their airspeed and constantly adjust to ensure they can engage foes that are much slower than themselves. When a balance is struck, the Darkstar becomes a force to contend with: it is capable of reaching enemy targets very quickly, and then decelerate swiftly in order to engage them.

  • Besides an integral pulse laser mounted in its nose, Darkstar also carries missiles in an internal bay. Depending on its configuration, Darkstar carries short-range aerial suppression missiles, small-diameter bombs or pulse lasers, making it suitable for both anti-air and anti-ground operations. For me, the pulse lasers remain a favourite, and the fact that Darkstar carries six hundred and fifty shots, the same as the Su-57, makes this a straight upgrade to the capable Su-57. The down side about the pulse lasers in Skies Unknown is the fact that clouds will diffuse the beams and render them ineffectual.

  • However, with Darkstar’s handling characteristics, one could easily switch back to missiles and come around for another attack run. During my first run with Darkstar, I utilised its extreme speed to make short work of the forces amassed at Artiglio Port. It suddenly hits me that the last time I wrote about Ace Combat at the end of the year, it would’ve been two years earlier. Back then, I’d just picked up the Year One Pass, which gave access to the extended missions and the ADX series of aircraft, which I’d been longing to fly on PC ever since I played Ace Combat: Assault Horizon.

  • Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War had ignited a desire to fly the Falken, and one of the things about The Unsung War had been the fact that the game had players shooting down the SOLG on New Year’s Eve. The atmospherics surrounding this particular mission had been especially well done, and the decision to time the final level on New Year’s Eve had always evoked a sense of curiosity in me. In discussions with a friend, we’d reach the conclusion that destroying the SOLG and stopping the Belkan plot to instigate open war between two superpowers on New Year’s Eve had been symbolic.

  • By wrapping up all of the conflict before a new year, The Unsung War sought to convey the importance of wrapping things up decisively so that there was no chance for any lingering feelings of regret or resentment to carry forwards. This entailed destroying the Grey Men’s ace-in-the-hole before it could reach Oured, and in doing so, Razgriz makes it clear that whenever we’re on the cusp of a new beginning, it’s important to let go of past grudges. The Grey Men came to represent these grudges, and destroying their instruments of terror became a show of how people can actively make a choice not to let the past impact their present or future.

  • Later games don’t quite have the same symbolism, and for this reason, The Unsung War remains my favourite Ace Combat game. Skies Unknown comes in at a close second because later additions would add enough content to the game to make it feel like a comprehensive experience that brings Strangereal to the PC. Things like the Maverick aircraft set give players new ways of experiencing the game. While the idea of downloadable content and expansions may prima facie appear to be a money-grab, and it is true that when poorly done, DLC can significantly degrade player experience, good DLC allows one to get more mileage out of their games.

  • Good DLC never restricts a player in what they can intrinsically do: a base game must allow a player to unlock everything and experience things wholly. A game that offers a solid experience on its own will incentivise players to pick up additional content, whether it be new missions, equipment or even cosmetics. On the other hand, if a game requires DLC in order for a player to have a fair or complete experience, then it has failed because it is forcing players to drop additional money for something that should have been part of the original game.

  • In Skies Unknown, players can have a comprehensive experience without picking up the Alicorn missions or any of the bonus aircraft, but buying the additional content allows one to extend their enjoyment of the game further, making them fair for players. For me, because I enjoyed Skies Unknown and desired a challenge, buying the Season Pass to gain the Alicorn missions and the ADX aircraft was a simple enough decision. Similarly, since I found myself thoroughly enjoying Top Gun: Maverick, picking up the Maverick set to further my time in Skies Unknown was something I had no qualms doing.

  • With 2022 drawing to a close, yesterday, I ended up going on one final adventure before the year ended. Five years earlier, I’d gone out into the mountains during the cold of winter to capitalise on the Canada 150 complimentary park pass, and of the days I’d chosen, I ended up going amidst a snowstorm. Although the food had been great, the drive had been especially difficult: the roads were covered in snow, and a blizzard had enveloped the highway, reducing visibility to near zero. Five years have passed since that excursion, and this year, to take advantage of the remaining break time I had, I decided to schedule a similar trip.

  • This time around, I also walked over to the Vermillion Lakes. At this time of year, the lakes have frozen over completely, and this means that the mirror-smooth reflections of the mountains and sky were absent. However, during the morning, we still had gorgeous skies, and the temperature was a comfortable -6°C. This allowed for a more casual walk along the Vermillion Lakes trail. I imagine that to get the coveted combination of a lake that has not yet frozen over, and fresh snowfall, I’d need to come in during late October or early November. Having said this, there is a joy about visiting during the heart of winter: ice covering the lake was dotted with footprints, suggesting that adventurous individuals had wandered about.

  • As the morning drew to a close, we headed back into town and stopped by lunch at Tooloulou’s, a Cajun restaurant with dishes inspired by the Rockies. This establishment has developed a bit of a reputation as serving flavourful comfort food; the wait times were estimated at three quarters of an hour, so I went for a quick walk to the Cascade Mountain Viewpoint across the river. After a table opened up, I sat down to their soft-shell crab po’boy sandwich with a potato salad, and after one bite, it became apparent as to why Tooloulou’s is a popular dining spot: the soft shell crab was an explosion of flavour and seasoned well, while the creaminess in the source balanced the flavours out.

  • After lunch, the last two items on the itinerary was a drive up the Trans Canada highway; I’d been looking to check out Castle Mountain and Morant’s Curve during the winter, and neither spots disappointed. I still remember a time when I had no love for winter, but in recent years, I’ve come to appreciate the aesthetic of a hushed landscape enveloped in snow and cloud. There’s a stillness about the winter landscape that conveys tranquility, and I now feel that winter is not a time of death, but rather, a time of repose.

  • When I arrived at Castle Mountain, there had been a brief break in the clouds, allowing the mountain to peek through the clouds and catch the last rays of the sun. After a half hour’s drive further north, I reached Morant’s Curve. By this time, the clouds rolled back in, and snow had begun to fall, creating a peaceful landscape. A small crowd had gathered to watch the train, but for me, I determined it would be better to return home before the sun had set fully. The drive back home was unremarkable; the highway was extremely crowded, but the flow was also smooth, making it a far better drive than the one I’d experienced five years earlier.

  • Besides Darkstar, the Maverick set also comes with Maverick’s custom F/A-18E Super Hornet. Shortly after Maverick came out, I attempted the Cape Rainy Assault canyon run with the standard F/A-18F. This had been a fun experience in and of itself, but being able to rock Maverick’s F/A-18E custom made the canyon run feel like a night version of the run that was seen in Top Gun: Maverick. Such a run was done purely for the sake of creating a captivating cinematic experience: in real life, the sort of mission in Maverick would be best carried out by the GBU-57A/B Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP), a 14-tonne precision guided bomb that is delivered by the B-2 Spirit.

  • The assignment seen in Maverick would see a single B-2 Spirit fly in under the cover of darkness and drop the MOP: while the enemies are stated as using GPS jamming, the guidance system in the MOP is capable of operating even in the absence of a GPS signal. The only drawback about the MOP is that it lacks a void fuze and therefore, will only detonate once it’s stopped moving. The existence of dedicated weapons in reality is meant to allow the armed forces to carry out very specific assignments, and as a result, the idea of sending in human pilots for a low-altitude assignment is unlikely to be anyone’s first option.

  • Of course, in the realm of fiction, using human pilots to carry out dangerous assignments is done purely for entertainment value: watching Tom Cruise banking sharply and exhaling with each turn is significantly more exciting than watching a pair of stoic B-2 Spirit pilots lasing their target and dropping a single MOP from an altitude of fifteen kilometres. However, this would preclude a thrilling movie. Similarly, if Ace Combat were realistic, missions would likely end as soon as one shot down two aircraft, since it is not feasible for an aircraft to carry a hundred plus missiles.

  • Skies Unknown‘s equivalent of the canyon run requires players to remain below six hundred metres and avoid searchlights: there isn’t any sort of timeline to the canyon flight, and novice pilots can take their time in flying through the canyon. This hasn’t stopped talented Ace Combat players from accelerating through the canyon at breakneck speeds, navigating with a combination of skill and finesse while staying below 150 metres the entire way. Regardless of one’s skill level, however, the canyon run is most definitely one of Skies Unknown‘s most iconic missions.

  • Once players get clear of the canyon, the mission is simply to altogether flatten the enemy forces at the airfield. On my original run of this mission, I used an F-15E with six air-to-air missiles. However, while using Maverick’s F/A-18E here, I am running with the GBU-24 Paveway III guided penetrator bombs that were seen in the film: these explosives ordinarily require a laser signal in order to accurately hit their targets, but in Ace Combat 7, their implementation is such that as long as I lock onto a ground target, they will automatically steer themselves towards that target.

  • Still, being able to fly a film-faithful version of the F/A-18E was fantastic, and I can think of a few more places in Skies Unknown where the F/A-18E could be useful. Playing through Ace Combat 7 again, I am reminded of how much fun this game is: Skies Unknown marked the first time an Ace Combat game set in Strangereal was available on PC, and at the time of its release in 2019, it had already spent four years in development. I myself had been excited to play Ace Combat 7 ever since finishing the 2013 spin-off, Assault Horizon.

  • The successor to Skies Unknown will be the eighth formal entry in the Ace Combat series, and while development began back in 2021, I imagine that to ensure that the title delivers the best possible experiences for players, it will release somewhere in 2025. Ace Combat 8, as it is informally called, is using Unreal Engine 5, but beyond this, not much more is known. Back in Skies Unknown, I’ve switched over to the penultimate mission, where I’m flying the Fifth-Generation fighter. This is the actual name of the aircraft in-game, a deliberate callback to the fact that in Maverick, the Su-57s the unnamed hostile nation operates is never identified.

  • The original Su-57 in Skies Unknown occupies the same tier as the YF-23 and F-22 Raptor, being the second-best group of aircraft available to players in the base game prior to unlocking the Strike Wyvern. Capable of carrying either a guided penetration bomb or four multi-target anti-air missiles, the Su-57 is a capable fighter. However, its true strengths lay with the fact that it could equip a pair of pulse laser pods, and of all the aircraft in Skies Unknown with pulse lasers, the Su-57 had the highest capacity, carrying 650 rounds.

  • The Maverick variant of the Su-57 has weapons suited for anti-air engagements at the expense of being unable to carry any anti-ground munitions, and trades mobility for stealth For my flight, I opted to go with the four multi-target anti-air missiles, since I knew I would be fighting a mission that was primarily focused on anti-air combat. Ever since playing through Project Wingman, I’ve come to appreciate the utility of the multi-target missiles: while they’re not as manoeuvrable as the quick-manoeuvre anti-air missiles, at range, they do allow one to pick off entire squadrons in a single salvo.

  • Against the UAVs and manned fighters in a map where the number of foes means one’s threat indicator is going off non-stop, the fifth generation fighter is a beast. The slight differences between the Su-57 and the “fifth-generation fighter” are not substantial, and in the hands of a capable pilot, this plane is more than enough to get the job done. As memory serves, I ran an F-15E armed with the tactical laser for this mission when I played through the game for the first time, primarily because I’d wanted to fire the tactical laser on PC for the first time.

  • To no one’s surprise, the Su-57’s superior traits mean that it is the better plane for this mission, and prior to Maverick, I would suggest that the Su-57 and its pulse lasers would be well-suited for this mission. I did find that the multi-target missiles were a satisfactory substitute, and high in the skies above the Lighthouse orbital elevator, I slaughtered both the enemy fighters and Arsenal Bird with relative ease. Despite it being over three years since I’ve played Ace Combat, I found myself getting back into the swing of things surprisingly well, and I do remember how during my first run of this mission, I was having trouble hitting the docking clamps and antennae on the Arsenal Bird.

  • Having the additional missiles on the fifth-generation fighter did help with this last part, and I was able to defeat the Arsenal Bird without too much difficulty, even though I’d taken a considerable amount of damage in the process. Primarily for survivability reasons, I run with the automatic fire extinguisher whenever I play Skies Unknown: this little gadget will gradually decrease the damage back to fifty percent over time, if one’s damage should exceed fifty percent.

  • In order to test the F-14A that Maverick and Rooster ends up stealing, I chose to do so within the final mission. This mission was really where the old adage, “it’s not the plane, it’s the pilot” was put to the test: the ADF-11F Raven is a seventh generation fighter with capabilities far outstripping those of even the fifth-generation fighters, and this means that theoretically, the F-14A should be even more outmatched than it had been in the movie. However, despite the disparity, the Maverick version of the F-14A is again, given some customisations such that it is a bit more manoeuvrable.

  • Whether it was a result of experience, or the F-14A’s intrinsic capabilities, I was able to shoot down both Ravens within the space of three minutes, and deal with the UAV unit that jettisoned from the Raven’s wreckages. For this mission, I ran with the high-powered anti-air missiles, which hit harder than ordinary missiles but also have a greater difficulty in tracking targets. The F-14A was able to get behind the Ravens without too much trouble, and I found that using the guns actually worked well here: ever since Project Wingman, I’ve taken to using guns to deal with boss-type units that have either unlimited flares or a supernatural ability to evade missiles.

  • Defeating both Ravens with the F-14A was the surest show that the adage, “it’s not the plane, it’s the pilot” holds true, and in the context of Skies Unknown, that a fifty-three year old fighter can do anything at all against a hypothetical seventh generation fighter shows how UAVs aren’t quite ready to replace human pilots yet. Of course, this definitely doesn’t hold true in reality: highly manoeuvrable UAVs would be able to pull off turns that would cause g-LOC in human pilots in a dogfight, and advanced UAVs will likely be smaller than manned fighters, so a real engagement would probably see UAVs firing accurate long-range missiles that could down an F-14 long before the pilot had time to react.

  • Again, realism isn’t the object of entertainment, and it does give players thrills to be able to pull something like beating a Raven with a Tomcat.  For the final part of Skies Unknown‘s last mission, I was able to carry out the tunnel flight and escape without too much difficulty, and with this, it becomes clear that the Maverick set represents a highly enjoyable addition to Skies Unknown. Over the past two years, besides the ADX series and Maverick, three other aircraft sets were released. These aircraft sets are similar to the ADX series in that they’re for existing fans of the franchise, adding aircraft from earlier games into Skies Unknown.

  • At the time of writing, anyone east of London, England has already welcomed 2023. However, most of the readers here hail from North America, and that means there’s still a few hours left before it’s our turn to do the big countdown. Having spent most of today doing housework and getting this post wrapped up, it’s time for me to unwind and enjoy a New Year’s Eve dinner with family. For my final remarks for this last post of 2022, I’d like to thank all readers for having stuck around for excellent conversations over the past year, and look forwards to seeing familiar faces return in 2023. Here’s to a Happy New Year for everyone!

This discussion on the Ace Combat crossover with Top Gun: Maverick is the last post of 2022, and now that we’re at the eve of a new year, it is striking as to how quickly the year has passed. Over the course of this year, a great deal has happened: according to site metrics, I’ve written a grand total of 138 posts, for a total of six hundred and fifty-six thousand words. A hundred and forty-five unique viewers have collectively totalled two hundred and eight thousand views over this time. Despite my uncertainty with keeping this blog running with everything that’s happening, I believe I’ve managed to do a fair job of things (although I will let readers be the judge of this). Beyond this blog, which I assure readers does not constitute the majority of my life, this past year has also been quite remarkable: I’ve learnt new things about iOS and Android development through my work, saw my first-ever move and became a homeowner. Following the move, I’ve taken advantage of the change in scenery to explore the new neighbourhood, its amenities and the community further. Thanks to a gradual return to normalcy, I’ve also had the chance to have new culinary experiences and hit the open roads with my time off. To put things lightly, 2022 has been a very eventful year, and looking back at my resolutions from the beginning of 2022, it does appear that I’ve managed to meet them in a satisfactory manner. In customary fashion, with 2023 only a few hours away for this side of the world, I will need some new resolutions for the New Year. For 2023, I resolve to make a conscious effort to always bring my best forward for the people around me and continue stepping out of my comfort zone: while this isn’t a goal with a quantitative measure of success, I’ve found that resolution-keeping works best for me if I maintain consistency, and that means, so long as I can do something with frequency and do so well, I’ve met my aims.

Portal With RTX: A Reflection on A More Reflective Portal Experience

“Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do, doesn’t mean it’s useless.” –Thomas Edison

Back in September, NVIDIA’s announcement of Portal With RTX generated a bit of buzz: the original Portal is now fifteen years old. To showcase their new line of Lovelace GPUs and RTX Remix, NVIDIA also determined that Portal was worth reimagining. Using machine learning, RTX Remix dynamically computes how lighting should behave, allowing it to interact with objects in a 3D space in real-time. RTX Remix uses path-tracing, which uses a comparatively simple algorithm to render high-quality images at the expense of performance; as lighting becomes more sophisticated, path-tracing becomes more demanding, and typically, games utilise more efficient variants of path-tracing that may not be quite as visually impressive. Here in Portal With RTX, NVIDIA Remix’s use of path-tracing means that the end-result is a highly advanced showcase of what lighting effects are possible: because everything is done using ray-tracing, illuminations, shadows, reflections and even refractive effects are especially impressive, breathing new life into an iconic game. There is, however, a trade-off: because of how computationally expensive path-tracing is, Portal With RTX demands the most powerful hardware in order to run at maximum quality and resolution. In order to play Portal With RTX at 4K and 60 FPS, with everything set to ultra, NVIDIA’s RTX 4080 is recommended. On the other hand, while the minimum GPU suggested is the RTX 3060, folks have reported that they’re struggling to run Portal With RTX, even though they’re running video cards that are more powerful than the RTX 3060. The variability in performance and experience demonstrate that, as exciting as ray-tracing techniques are, and as exciting as the prospect of having real-time ray-tracing hardware become mainstream is, the technology still has a way to go before it can become widespread. For the present, real-time ray-tracing remains more of a curiosity, but when judiciously applied, the lighting and visuals can act as a fantastic showcase for what is possible.

The extreme requirements in Portal With RTX has meant that getting the game to run has been a toss-of-the-coin. On my RTX 3060 Ti, which is about 30 percent more powerful than the RTX 3060, I’ve managed to get Portal With RTX running at manageable frame rates, with reasonable quality. Although the RTX 3060 Ti is far outstripped by the RTX 4090, the fact that this mid-range card is able to run Portal With RTX without any major issues speaks volumes to the build I put together back in March. In this way, I was able to revisit an old experience given a fresh coat of paint. Initial impressions of Portal With RTX had been met with skepticism: video games journalist Ben Sledge writes that the highly reflective, clean surfaces of the remaster defeats the visual impact of the original game, where there had previously been dull, lifeless walls, and as a result, the soul of Portal had been “ripped out”. As a result, the remaster was unnecessary, and hardly any justification for playing Portal With RTX. In practise, this is untrue; although Portal With RTX has new, high-resolution textures to showcase just how sophisticated the RTX Remix lighting is, the overall aesthetic in Portal With RTX remains respectful to the visuals of the original. NVIDIA had chosen to showcase segments of the game where the differences were especially profound, but for folks playing through Portal With RTX, the visuals actually aren’t too dramatically changed: after marvelling at the reflections from the Heavy Duty Super-Colliding Super Button, emissive effects from the high-energy pellets and dynamic shadows (all computed in real time), it’s time to focus on the puzzles themselves. Moving through the test chambers, it is apparent that, rather than depriving Portal of its character, the updated visuals actually speak to an Aperture Science that is at its prime. Clean, polished surfaces show an institute that was, at one point, a serious competitor to Black Mesa. The new visuals in Portal With RTX serve to both bring life to an old classics, as well as tell a different story about Aperture Sciences, and in this way, one can make a clear case that Portal With RTX is anything but soulless. Of course, if one wished to experience the original, that option continues to remain viable: the old game isn’t going anywhere, and upon returning to it after completing Portal With RTX, it is apparent that the original still holds up extremely well.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • For me, Portal With RTX represents a test of my hardware’s capabilities. I’d already played through and wrote about Portal previously, having greatly enjoyed the game’s innovative mechanics and sense of humour. On this particular play-through, I completed the entire game in the space of an hour and a half, having already gone through the game and therefore, had a full knowledge of all of the nuances to how each puzzle was to be solved. Instead, a part of this experience was to see just how detailed everything looked now that real-time ray-tracing was implemented.

  • To put things simply, Portal With RTX looks amazing. This is most noticeable in the Heavy Duty Super-Colliding Super Buttons on the floor. Whereas they’d been made of a dull metal previously, they’re now reimagined as glass or ceramic buttons and reflect their environments in detail. To show that off, I’ve stacked a pair of Weighted Storage Cubes here, and positioned myself so I could see the wall lights and portal reflected on the buttons’ surfaces. Ray-tracing effects have previously been implemented in first person shooters like Metro: Exodus and DOOM: Eternal, but with how high-paced they are, there’s little time to appreciate the visuals.

  • On the other hand, Portal is the perfect place to showcase what ray-tracing can do. The high energy pellets, for instance, now emit their own light and act as a mobile point light. While this is nothing impressive, the fact that everything in this scene is ray-traced shows what’s possible with the technique. One detail I did particularly like was the fact that the toxic liquid in Portal With RTX, a dull, greenish-brown sludge in the original, is now more reflective, and thanks to ray-tracing, any changes in the environment are now visible on the liquid’s surface, too.

  • For me, I have DLSS on and set to “Quality”. I’m using a custom graphic preset with everything turned up, except the maximum number of light bounces is set to four. With these settings, the game runs at around 45 FPS, and I didn’t experience any crashes during my time in Portal With RTX. Although quite a ways lower than the baseline of 60 FPS for smoothness on my monitors, the game remained very playable, and I was able to complete it without any difficulties from a hardware standpoint. With this being said, it is clear that for me, Portal With RTX was not being rendered at native resolution, and instead, was likely being upscaled using DLSS.

  • DLSS (Deep Learning Super Sampling) refers to NVIDIA’s upscaling and inference technology which renders images at lower resolutions and then upscales the images so performance is increased. This translates to better frame rates for players, allowing lower-end GPUs to still keep up. The technology was introduced with the Turing Series, and with Lovelace, DLSS 3 was brought in: DLSS 3 is exclusive to the Lovelace series, but even the older DLSS 2 (which is available on the Ampere GPUs) offers performance gains. For most of the games I play, I have more than enough hardware to render everything at native resolution.

  • In the case of Portal With RTX, the image quality is a little less crisp than if everything were rendered natively. With DLSS off, I average around 15-20 FPS, so in order to have a playable frame rate, even at 1080p, I needed DLSS to be enabled, although even at the “quality” mode, I was able to maintain about 40-45 FPS. I estimate that folks running an RTX 2080 Super or RTX 2080 Ti should also be able to play Portal With RTX without too much problem after adjusting some of the settings, but anything below an RTX 3060 is unlikely to be able to run the game.

  • The requirements for Portal With RTX are surprisingly steep because RTX Remix is, simply put, expecting the Lovelace series of GPUs to brute force things. When optimised, real-time ray-tracing can be quite performant, but here, Portal With RTX is meant as more of a demonstration of the technology. As such, as incredible as Portal With RTX looks, it’s also one of those games that can’t be recommended to Portal fans unless they already have the hardware or are intending to upgrade their hardware and utilising it fully: it should go without saying that spending 2200 CAD for an RTX 4090, or 1650 CAD for an RTX 4080 (neither of which are in stock at my local computer store) just so one can play Portal is not a good use of money.

  • Having said this, if one has a legitimate use case for a Lovelace GPU, then Portal With RTX becomes a novel experience. Here, I will share a laugh with readers at the expense of Tango-Victor-Tango’s John “Fighteer” Aldrich, who had posted to the forums shortly after Portal With RTX‘s announcement, wondering if his GTX 1060 would be able to run the game and concluded he should be okay since the GTX 1060 was capable of ray-tracing. Although the 6 GB model of the GTX 1060 can enable DXR and do some ray tracing, performance leaves much to be desired – if memory serves, in games with basic ray tracing, the GTX 1060 drops to around 15 FPS with DXR enabled. Seeing Fighteer’s misplaced optimism that the GTX 1060 (while a fantastic card) could run Portal With RTX is laughable and typifies the behaviour of Tango-Victor-Tango’s userbase’s tendency to not completely research their topics before speaking out.

  • Shortly after Portal With RTX released, Fighteer found himself eating crow and commented on how he now had an incentive to upgrade in the future, and I return to my previous statement – if one is planning an upgrade to an RTX 4080 or 4090 purely so they can play Portal With RTX, it is likely an unwise expenditure. For content creators who stream Triple-A titles, a top-tier GPU like the 4090 makes sense, and similarly, someone doing AI research will find the 4090 a suitable investment. However, for a vast majority of gamers, the RTX 4090, and even the 4080, is overkill. Having a video card like these for 1440p gaming as a hobby is akin to having a supercar, and then only using it as one’s commuter vehicle.

  • Because of the financial aspect, I do not expect Fighteer to spring on an RTX 4080 or 4090: in fact, I comment that it’d be more prudent now to wait for the mid-end Lovelace cards before making a decision. For me, I’ve settled into a pattern now: after I buy a GPU, I try to make it last at least three generations before upgrading again, and whether I upgrade depends on whether or not my current GPU can still run the games I am interested in on high settings while maintaining 60 FPS at 1080p. If my GPU cannot do this, then I will look at seeing whether or not the current mid-range GPUs can keep up with the upper-range GPUs of the previous generation.

  • For instance, when I upgraded to the GTX 1060 from the GTX 660, one of the selling points about the 1060 was the fact that it offered near-980 levels of performance for a much lower price and a lower power draw. One of the reasons why the RTX 3060 Ti was so enticing, then, was the fact that it actually edged out the RTX 2080 SC. In fact, the 3060 Ti is ten to fifteen percent weaker than the older 2080 Ti, but at the same time, costs significantly less and has a lower power draw. For me, I don’t need the additional power the 2080 Ti offers because I’m still playing at 1080p, so the lower cost made the 3060 Ti the obvious choice.

  • Since I made the call to grab a 3060 Ti, this left me in a position to try Portal With RTX out, and this is why I’ve been lucky enough to give things a go and see for myself what the technology could do. However, Portal With RTX is not a game worth upgrading a GPU for in this moment, but down the line, when more Lovelace GPUs (or the new generation) become available, more people will be able to give Portal With RTX a try. Surprisingly, most of Tango-Victor-Tango’s forums have been remarkable quiet about Portal With RTX, and most of the complaints about the game’s steep requirements are found at Reddit.

  • My response to Portal With RTX and its requirements are that, I’m glad my desktop was able to handle it reasonably well (40-45 FPS at 1080p with things cranked up to ultra is nothing to sneeze at, considering that the recommended GPU is an RTX 3080), and moreover, even if the humble 3060 Ti could not run the game as well as it did, it’s not as though the release of Portal With RTX would take away from the fact that Portal still runs extremely well and is the original experience. As such, it makes little sense to gripe about Portal With RTX‘s changed aesthetics and steep requirements because there’s nothing stopping players from grabbing the original and having a good time with it.

  • As I made further progress into Portal With RTX, I began recalling old memories of playing through the game for the first time. The puzzles came back to me relatively quickly, and I don’t mind admitting that I only had a minor bit of trouble with Test Chamber 15, but even then, after giving things some thought, all of the puzzles proved quite straightforward to complete. This was what allowed me to go through the whole of Portal With RTX with relative ease. On my original run of Portal a decade earlier, I had taken a total of three hours to complete the game since everything was new to me, but for my troubles, had a wonderful experience.

  • I ended up replaying the whole of Portal two years earlier, during the height of the global health crisis. Replaying Portal brought back memories of a simpler time, and here, I pick up the iconic Companion Cube, which became an instant favourite with players. Its first utility is to act as a shield of sorts, protecting players from the high-energy pellets while they travel down the hallways. Here, the ray-tracing has a chance to really shine: the high energy pellets emit light and glow brightly, causing a unique visual effect in the metal-lined corridor that was simply absent in the original.

  • The Companion Cube creates an interesting problem-solving scenario, since players must use their single resource in order to complete the objective, and for Portal With RTX, the updated visuals are especially impressive in Test Chamber 17 because there’s an opportunity to again showcase the lighting. Here, light from the Heavy Duty Super-Colliding Super Buttons illuminates the Companion Cube, and reflections of this lighting can be seen on the wall to the right. The slower pace of Portal is naturally conducive towards admiring the lighting effects.

  • It suddenly hits me that we’re now hurtling through December at a breakneck pace: it only seems like yesterday that the month has started, but we’re now less than two weeks to Christmas itself. Yesterday evening, I was able to enjoy the first Christmas gathering with extended family in three years, and it was a pleasant evening of conversation and excellent food (prime rib with au jus, roasted prawns, skewered pork, mahi-mahi, carrots and Brussels sprouts with bacon and potato gratin). I’ve got another Christmas party lined up on Thursday with the office, but beyond this, I am looking forwards to a quieter Christmas Day with immediate family.

  • 2022’s been an eventful year, especially with the big move and building of a new desktop back in March, but things settled down reasonably quickly, so I am able to look forward to some well-earned downtime at the end of the year. I am glad that I was able to get my desktop set up when I did: the ongoing microprocessor shortage has meant that new parts will continue to be hard to come by, and Intel forecasts that said shortage could last into 2024 because of a lack of manufacturing equipment. As a result, prices are unlikely to see any drops, and this has been most visible with the Lovelace series GPUs, whose flagship model costs more than an entire PC.

  • The extreme price of hardware is what led my alma mater to remove their gaming PCs from the main library. When the new library had opened a decade earlier, the gaming computers were something students marvelled at and featured hardware comparable to my previous desktop. They received upgrades back in 2016, but when campus was undergoing a reconstruction project in 2019, the machines were decommissioned: some students have noted that their hardware was increasingly outdated, and beginning to fail, so the university decided to shelve these machines.

  • As of 2022, campus has not purchased new machines to replace the old ones, and for good reason: picking up eight brand-new custom-built PCs wouldn’t be a good use of the university’s funding, especially when considering that a high-end laptop now can have comparable performance. On the topic of higher-end laptops, my best friend recently picked up a new laptop to replace an aging machine that’d been giving him no shortage of trouble. This laptop, the MSI Katana, is armed with an i7 12700H and an RTX 3070, which puts his machine as having 90 percent the performance of my desktop.

  • With this, I am looking forwards to playing Modern Warfare II spec ops with him in the near future, and in the meantime, the both of us can gloat about being able to enjoy games while Fighteer is stuck moderating pointless debates at Tango-Victor-Tango because aging hardware precludes his spending time doing more enjoyable and productive things, such as checking out the real-time reflections in Portal With RTX. Admittedly, the visuals here are such that it would be easier to show the effects in a video, rather than through screenshots, but one hopes that the stills I’ve got still convey the advances in lighting effects.

  • Back in Portal With RTX, after solving this puzzle, GLaDOS promises that there’d be cake, but for longtime players, what awaits is a hilarious outcome that also sends Portal into its second act. By this point in time, the sum of all of one’s experiences means that players should be able to quickly identify where portals should be placed in order to solve a given puzzle. In Portal 2, test chambers actually limited the amount of surfaces a portal could be placed on, which in turn would give not-so-subtle clues as to how things could be beaten.

  • However, in Portal, even though test chambers are largely portal-friendly, the game still gives some clues as to where portals can be placed. High-energy pellets, for instance, will leave scorch marks on surfaces they interact with, and the receptacles for these pellets similarly illuminate a path so one has an idea of where to aim things. Portal is one of those games where the puzzles, while sometimes challenging, aren’t impossible: it feels rewarding to work something out, but it won’t take one an entire afternoon to figure out one test chamber.

  • Portal is broken cleanly into two acts: the first is the test chambers, and the second is everything after players escape and do what they can to survive. From here on out, the game requires that players keep an eye on their environment and make full use of their creativity and ingenuity to survive. Along the way, scribbles on the walls will serve to guide one to their final destination, a one-on-one confrontation with GLaDOS. I found that Portal With RTX‘s second half was not quite as visually impressive as the first, but even here, the lighting effects are impressive, with things like the catwalks being rendered with reflections to give them a greasy, slippery sense.

  • Pressing through the bowels of Aperture Science with ray-tracing, it becomes clear that while Portal With RTX had refreshed the original test chambers, the back corridors of Aperture remain mostly untouched, and this creates an even stronger juxtaposition between the game’s first and second acts. In these corridors and maintenance ways, the effects from real-time ray-tracing are still noticeable (fans cast shadows in real time, and metallic surfaces interact realistically with light), but for me, the most impressive addition is volumetric lighting, which gives the entire space a musty, dusty character.

  • Owing to the volumetric lighting, spaces that were formerly dark are now much brighter than they’d previously been, and this brought to mind the changes that were made to Halo: Anniversary, where iconic spots on Installation 04 were rendered as being more detailed and bright than in the original. Fans were displeased with the changes, since the darkness had added to the aesthetics and unease those levels conveyed. By the time of Halo 2: Anniversary, 343 Industries took a much more respectful approach to things, and the game ends up being faithful to the original’s tone while at the same time, sporting much more detail.

  • Portal With RTX is more similar to Halo 2: Anniversary, or perhaps Half-Life 2: Update, which touched up the visuals without dramatically altering the game’s style. This speaks volumes to how things like RTX Remix can be used to add new life to classic games, and while I would very much prefer a proper remaster, the fact that the technology exist means that, at least in theory, it’d be possible to run something like Half-Life 2 though RTX Remix and get real-time ray-tracing working. Of course, in a first person shooter, where frame rates do matter, I’m not confident the technology would produce the best experience, even if it does showcase how the potential for giving games new lighting exists.

  • The sky bridge leading into GLaDOS’ chamber in Portal With RTX looks much as it did in Portal, although better lighting means more details are visible. Here, I will note that in the time since I’ve graduated, many parts of my alma mater have undergone dramatic renovations and changes, so some of the features that were present when I were a student are now gone, and the professional building is among the places that have changed. The office perched beside an atrium is gone, but this is actually one of the smaller changes; because it’s been six years since I was a student, the library tower and student services buildings have been completely replaced, and even the iconic “Prairie Chicken” statue was removed for a few years while construction was going on.

  • Although lower frame rates are technically okay (anything north of 30 FPS is playable in the test chambers and while escaping), 45 FPS is more than enough to beat GLaDOS, and I had no trouble completing the final fight. Having said this, it is here, during the final fight, that frame rates do matter: beating GLaDOS, even though it is a relatively relaxed task, still demands some degree of precision and coordination, and a janky experience can prevent one from timing their jumps well enough to grab some of GLaDOS’ personality cores.

  • Ninety minutes later, I had completed the whole of Portal With RTX and was treated to the final cut scene, wherein the infamous black forest cake is rendered using real-time ray-tracing. I found myself vaguely filled with a desire to enjoy some cake, and while the local grocery store sells black forest cakes for 16 CAD, the fact that we’re so close to the holidays means that other Christmas classics will soon dominate the menu (including my personal festive favourite, the chocolate Yule Log).

While ray-tracing has only really taken off with NVIDIA’s Turing series of GPUs, the techniques have been proposed since 1986 by James Kajiya, and during my second year as an undergraduate student, I put together my own ray-tracing method for dynamically computing fluid flow in complex paths for physics objects. The object of this project had been to see if I could solve the problem of the in-house game engine being constrained to linear models of fluid flow. As the lab was trying to simulate more complex paths, the only solution was to approximate these paths by placing what we called “flow fields” into vessels. This was a painstaking task, and the concept of ray-tracing had been a promising way to simplify things. I was asked to explore an algorithm that each physical agent in the model could use to computer its path, and over the course of a summer, fine-tuned it so that it could convincingly “nudge” objects flowing to follow a path for visualisation. While the method had similarly been computationally demanding, it demonstrated that it was possible to push physical agents through any arbitrarily-shaped vessels without manually defining the paths. At the time, hardware meant that doing this for a few hundred objects and maintaining 30 frames per second was an accomplishment, but as more agents were added, performance correspondingly took a hit. Through this summer project, I felt that ray-tracing was a fantastic way of simplifying some tasks at the expense of performance, and while hardware today has improved, the trade off between convenience for the developers, and an end user’s experience, is one that real-time ray-tracing continues to face. In the case of Portal With RTX, using an AI to remaster lighting in a game is an exciting new development, and while it may not produce an optimised product for retail, evolving technology and hardware means that such methods simply open up more possibilities: rather than remain disappointed about how Portal With RTX cannot run on all hardware, one can instead look to the technology as simply another sign that things will never stagnate and continue to advance in new directions: although at present, path-tracing as RTX Remix implements it remains something that needs to be brute-forced, over time, improving software techniques will make things more efficient, and players will be glad that the technology had a starting point from somewhere iconic and reasonable.

Battlefield 2042: Escalation and A Second Chance, Reflections on a Remarkable Comeback A Year Later

“Having a second chance makes you want to work even harder.” –Tia Mowry

A year ago, Battlefield 2042 had been counted as a debacle and failure: the game was blemished by performance issues and bugs, a significant deviation from what had made earlier Battlefield titles successful, and the noticeable absence of essential features (such as a scoreboard, server browser and player statistics view). The community’s dissatisfaction with the game was tangible, and in the year that followed, DICE had been hard at work, adding back basic functions, addressing serious bugs and retouching the game to ensure it delivered an experience consistent with what their players desire. The end result is nothing short of remarkable and in fact, is a classic Battlefield story. When Battlefield 4 launched, the game was nigh-unplayable. Hit registration rarely worked, and players found themselves crashing out of matches. A year later, Battlefield 4 was unrecognisable thanks to the effort DICE invested into the game, and in time, Battlefield 4 would be celebrated as one of the best Battlefield titles ever made owing to its ambitious design and simultaneously delivering a good quantity of quality content. The same courtesy can be extended to Battlefield 2042, which has had a rough year marked by an incremental, but consistent improvement to the game overall. The game runs very well, and I have no trouble connecting to (and staying on) matches. The weapon and movement mechanics are excellent, while essentials like scoreboards and player statistics are now present. While the absence of a server browser is noticeable, the matchmaking works sufficiently well that I can get into servers I enjoy playing on without issue. Now that the core of Battlefield 2042 is stable and functional, the biggest ask, both from myself and others, is the inclusion of new content to ensure that the game consistently feels engaging. However, the content delivery in Battlefield 2042 is significantly reduced from that of its predecessors. Whereas updates previously would offer four maps and up to eight primary weapons for players to enjoy, Battlefield 2042‘s content comes out at a comparative trickle; each season has given players only two primary weapons, a new sidearm and one map. DICE prima facie continues to drop the ball with Battlefield 2042, but now that the game is in a much better place than it had been a year ago (in fact, the studio is suggesting that today’s Battlefield 2042 is the product that they wanted to launch with), it becomes easier to understand the reasoning behind Battlefield 2042‘s approach to post-launch content.

Whereas previous Battlefield titles pitted thirty-two players against one another in sixty-four player matches, Battlefield 2042 was originally intended to push the envelope and allow 128 players to fight simultaneously on a map. The larger scale in Battlefield 2042 means that maps must be designed to handle larger players, creating both open spaces for longer-range vehicular combat, as well as choke points and interior spaces for close-quarters chaos. Looking back at the maps the game had launched with, along with existing plans to rework maps into more engaging, fairer experiences, it becomes clear that every map in Battlefield 2042 was supposed to facilitate close, medium and long-range firefights by incorporating a mixture of open areas for vehicles, long sightlines for snipers, cluttered objectives for objective-oriented players and confined indoor spaces for frenzies favouring submachine guns and shotguns. However, the original maps had been rushed out, and this created scenarios where vehicles and snipers would dominate. The post-launch maps, on the other hand, have been carefully designed so that every play-style is viable. When Zero Hour’s Exposure was released, the combination of tunnels and open areas meant in a given match, one could switch from picking off targets at range to equipping a fast-firing automatic for helping one’s team to dislodge a persistent foe from the capture points embedded inside the mountain. The cavernous interior of Stranded’s container ship is well-suited for players with speedy reflexes, but outside, a good counter-sniper might be able to help break the chokehold the enemy team holds on the container ship by picking off any snipers camped out on the deck and create an opening for teammates to push into the ship’s interior. Here in the latest map, Spearhead, the large mega-factories dominating the map require players to steel themselves for frantic firefights, but the moment one steps outside, their mindset must immediately take into account the fact that one can be picked off at anytime by someone with a Rorsch MK-4 railgun. Applying these back to the original maps, it becomes clear that every map was intended to provide areas to fit different playstyles, and so, more care needed to be put into designing the maps so that different parts of the map benefit specific styles, in turn prompting players to mix things up and use different loadouts to be successful. Designing larger maps to accommodate various play-styles is an intensive effort and demands experimentation and finesse. Unlike earlier titles, where maps were designed for certain play-styles over another (for instance, Caspian Border is all about long-range combat, whereas Ziba Tower is purely for infantry-only fighting) and could be produced more quickly, more time must be spent on tuning Battlefield 2042‘s maps so they capture a large-scale battle where one can focus on specific tasks suited to their aims, whether it be clearing out buildings or providing long-range support for teammates.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The Spearhead map is the most noticeable addition to Battlefield 2042, being set in the Lapland region of Sweden. The greenery and mountains of the map stand in stark contrast with the high-tech factory, and in fact, the map has a similar aesthetic as Battlefield V‘s Iwo Jima map. One of the biggest advantages about Battlefield 2042 is that, since the story is quite loose, the game is able to take players all over the world. I would love to see a map set in a rural town in Japan.

  • Because these days, I can’t invest as much time into playing multiplayer games to the same extent that I did previously, my general strategy is to level up a given season until I have all of the weapons unlocked, and then switch my focus over to something else. However, while the last season was running, I did spend a bit of extra time running around trying to unlock the high-powered laser sights, which are unlocked by scoring hip-fire kills. The M5A3 was the first weapon I unlocked the new laser for, and it’s a blue beam that is much more visible in a bright environment.

  • The mix of indoor and outdoor combat in Spearhead means that the worth of having a +-system becomes apparent. I typically have it so that by default, a weapon is kitted out so that it is performant for its intended range and purpose, and then the additional attachments can specialise a weapon for different ranges or use-cases. While the system had felt extraneous early on, it is invaluable here in Battlefield 2042 because players can rapidly adapt to different circumstances without returning to the spawn screen.

  • The +-system and versatile map design complement one another; in fact, Battlefield 2042‘s design philosophy (irrespective of how successful the execution was) appears to take after some of Battlefield‘s best maps, which allow for a variety of play-styles to be successful. The best example of this is Battlefield 1‘s Nivelle Nights, which incorporated features that create a rock-paper-scissors balance between the different classes. In Nivelle Nights, players geared for close quarters were vulnerable to snipers, but snipers would themselves be weak against vehicles that could cross open areas with impunity. If vehicles were careless and roamed too close to the trenches, assault players could wreck them with dynamite or AT grenades.

  • In this way, every class would have a role to play. Battlefield 2042 had originally done away with the class system, and with every specialist able to swap between a wide range of weapons and equipment, the game felt more chaotic. However, DICE is planning on constraining the specialist to classes: equipment is to become class-specific, and each class will have bonus proficiencies with certain weapon types, which make them more attractive for a given class. While these changes reduce the versatility of any individual player and bring back the emphasis on team play, the +-system would still allow one to adapt to situations.

  • Having played Spearhead nearly exclusively since the third season started, I have noticed that adverse weather events have become significantly rarer, and in fact, I only encountered inclement weather once while playing on the map. While tornados and dust devils were marketted as a gimmick like Levolution and Behemoths, they end up being an irregular distraction with no meaningful contribution to gameplay. Conversely, the addition of changing weather and lighting conditions could potentially alter the way players move about the map. Things like heavy rainfall, sandstorms and blizzards would actually be a valuable addition, forcing players to change tactics.

  • Using lighting and visibility would prompt the inclusion of thermal or IRNV optics, which had been present in earlier Battlefield titles and allowed players to handle adverse conditions accordingly. These attachments were balanced by the fact that under bright conditions, they rendered the sights useless, so one had to choose their loadout accordingly. Since Battlefield 2042 lets players to switch some attachments freely, the concern is that one could mitigate limitations of thermal and IRNV optics by switching them out. However, the game could balance this by disabling those optics by means of EMP and hacking, and forcing players to use the +-system to swap out (or endure a non-functional optic) would become a tactical decision.

  • Of course, there is a great deal of content and possibility that could be added to Battlefield 2042 to deepen the gameplay and increase the skill ceiling. However, I’ve learnt that it’s probably better if expectations aren’t too high for Battlefield 2042 – Battlefield V had begun turning around in a big way a year after its launch, and following the Pacific Theatre update, it did feel as though Battlefield V could’ve turned into an engaging and successful title like its predecessors. Instead, support was dropped for the game six months later, and content like Normandy, Stalingrad and the Battle of Berlin never materialised.

  • Battlefield 2042 is making a comeback at present, and while DICE has committed to at least two more seasons of content, the future of the game remains uncertain, since poor initial impressions have led Battlefield 2042 to underperform in terms of sales. In such a scenario, DICE’s best move is, rather than attempting to pivot and work on a new Battlefield title, continue to provide support for Battlefield 2042 by providing new content and fixes for at least two more years. This would allow the game to regain the players’ confidence and give DICE the feedback they need on what makes a Battlefield game successful.

  • The new specialist, Zain, is a pleasant addition to the roster. His passive ability is immediate regeneration after every kill, and he gains access to the XM370A airburst grenade launcher. I’ve never been too successful with the XM25 in Battlefield 4, so here in Battlefield 2042, I’ve only used the XM370A only to complete one of the weekly assignments. However, the passive ability is immensely helpful and reminds me of one of the perks associated with the Hunter’s Fury gear-set in The Division 2: if one has at least three pieces equipped, every kill fully restores health and a fifth of one’s armour.

  • For me, this ability makes Zain the most capable of the assault-class specialists, and looking back, it does feel as though the specialists in Battlefield 2042 are an extension of the archetypes that were proposed for Battlefield V. I had actually been excited about this, since it allowed a class to be more focused on a specific role. For instance, a field surgeon would have an affinity for revives, while the combat medic would be armed with close-range weapons and stick with teammates to rapidly heal them. This would allow players to tune a class to best fit their playstyle.

  • Here, I help with the capture of the buildings at the capture point closest to the Russian deployment. For the most part, Spearhead is a symmetrical map, with the Russian’s closest capture point being inside a massive factory. The capture point closest to the American spawn, on the other hand, is out in the open. While on paper, this should create problems, in practise, the map is superbly balanced, and I’ve had no trouble performing as a member of either team. The cavernous interiors of the factories actually offer side passages, so rather than rushing in the entrances, one can rappel up to a small passage and sneak in to the main area without being seen.

  • I have found people camping here before, and while I was surprised, I’ve had no trouble dealing with them. I can imagine that inside the warehouse’s walls, one might be waiting for their health to regenerate before pressing the attack; camping in here would be remarkably dull, since on the occasions I make my way into these areas, it’s usually quite quiet. Owing to the intensity of some matches, I did find it helpful to pick the SFAR-M GL and its drum magazine, allowing me to mow through opponents in chokepoints.

  • The tops of the warehouses have sloped edges that make them difficult to keep one’s footing on, and the rooftops themselves have no other structures. Any snipers camping up here would be vulnerable to helicopters and jets. Altogether, this makes the rooftops a punishing place for a sniper who wishes to camp here for a whole match. However, if one’s aims are simply to score a few kills and then move on, being up here can confer an advantage. The key is knowing when to move on: after a few kills, other players will grow wise to one’s act, and a transport or attack helicopter can bring one’s killstreak to a quick close.

  • The Rorsch MK-4 railgun is easily my favourite addition to Battlefield 2042: this utility weapon is an evolution of Battlefield 4‘s Rorsch MK-1 and fires projectiles at hypersonic velocities. Like its predecessor, it still needs to charge, but instead of a single, large slug, the weapon now has a twenty-round magazine firing smaller armour-piercing rounds. Although less damaging than the MK-1, the MK-4 compensates by allowing players to easily change out the capacitors, which allows the weapon to sustain automatic fire at expense to the damage each individual round does.

  • In its base sniper configuration, the Rorsch MK-4 is a one-hit headshot kill, and coupled with the weapon’s ludicrous projectile velocity and relatively quick rate of fire, it is a superb makeshift sniper rifle, capable of picking off entire squads at range if one’s aim is sure. The weapon does have a charge time, so one must actively track their target, and while the default optics are less suitable for long-range engagements, one can unlock the 6x optics for the railgun, turning it into a weapon that can go toe-to-toe with the DRX-1.

  • At close ranges, the Rorsch MK-4 is surprisingly effective, and initially, since I was having trouble with timing my shots, I decided to switch over to the automatic mode and use it as a close range weapon. This actually proved quite fun: while the need to charge the weapon means it’s not the best choice if one’s dealing with foes who know they’re coming, if one can catch their opponents off guard, a single magazine can allow for one to rapidly defeat two or three opponents before needing a reload. Besides a semi-automatic capacitor and automatic capacitor, the weapon also comes with a burst capacitor.

  • Owing to its adaptability, the Rorsch MK-4 has rapidly become my favourite weapon in Battlefield 2042: while it’s not easy to use initially, once one becomes familiar with the weapon, it is a highly potent tool that gives one options at almost any range. One can trade with snipers and rapidly switch back over to automatic or burst fire to deal with threats at close range: the capacitor and magazines are independent attachments, so the quick-swap between different capacitors doesn’t require a reload, and this renders the weapon obscenely powerful.

  • During one match, I spawned into a Bolte and used it to score a roadkill as I was driving between capture points. Vehicles go almost immediately in Battlefield 2042, and in most matches, I don’t have an opportunity to operate a tank or helicopter. However, where the chance arises, I do occasionally hop in to an active vehicle as a secondary gunner. Kills scored as a gunner still count towards progression, so this is a good way to both provide support for a driver, and pad one’s KDR in a given match. While I tend not to worry about KDR, my own KDR is slowly increasing over time, and I admit that it is a pleasant feeling to know that I am improving gradually in Battlefield 2042.

  • The Rorsch MK-4 is so effective, one wonders if DICE will rebalance the weapon in a later update. The biggest benefits about the weapon in its current form is that it has a very short charge time and a large capacity. In conjunction with the absence of any projectile drop and a near-instantaneous projectile velocity, the weapon is extremely difficult to counter. One potential fix is to increase the charge time for the single fire mode: reducing the projectile velocity would go against the weapon’s function as a railgun. Beyond this, the weapon is reasonably well-balanced.

  • Adding a railgun fundamentally changes the way Battlefield 2042 handles; besides being an effective tool for medium to long ranges, the Rorsch MK-4 is moderately effective against vehicles. While only dealing chip damage, the weapon can be used to interrupt repair cycles and giving teammates with dedicated anti-vehicle weapons or friendly vehicles a better chance of taking one out. Here, I will go on a brief tangent: the observant reader may have noticed that #TheJCS has not been discussed for some time, since my last showcase back in September.

  • As it turns out, Jon’s Creator Showcase is being decommissioned – although it’s had a fantastic run and has allowed for various parts of the community to gain some well-deserved exposure, the combination of declining interest and the workload hosts take up has meant that the time had come to retire the initiative. I’ve certainly had fun hosting, since it’s given me a chance to see blogs of all sorts, as well as other creative pursuits amongst members of the community. However, I also can attest to how much effort these posts take to put together.

  • Back in Battlefield 2042, I use the XM370A to score a lucky triple kill on three foes clustered together. While some Battlefield veterans had expressed concern that the XM370A and its airburst rounds could be abused, so far, I’ve found that most players don’t run with the gadget with any frequency. In fact, I’ve been felled by the Rorsch MK-4 with a greater frequency: although the XM370A is great for flushing targets from behind cover out, it takes a bit of skill to quickly get the weapon set up so it can be effective.

  • While I had unlocked the Avancys LMG (modelled after the FN EVOLVYS) during the last season, I never had the chance to utilise it early on. This light machine gun is a fun weapon to wield, being easier to control than the PKP-BP, but slightly less accurate than the LCMG. At the onset, the Avancys was counted as being overpowered, handling more similarly to an assault rifle with a 100-round belt in place of a box magazine. By the time I got around to using it in a live match, the Avancys has been balanced by increasing its recoil slightly.

  • In practise, the Avancys is a reliable weapon that feels more consistent than the PKP-BP. Throughout most of my experiences, I’ve chosen to stick with the base Battlefield 2042 era weapons: to help bolster the amount of content in the game, DICE had begun to import weapons from Battlefield: Portal over, and while these weapons bump the primary weapon count up, these weapons are also less suited for the gameplay style with Battlefield 2042‘s larger maps. They are unlocked by completing assignments, but once active, all of their attachments are already available to players for use.

  • DICE’s efforts in the past year has meant that Battlefield 2042 has improved dramatically, to the point where it is a fun game to play. The main game is consistent now; between the new content and reworks to both maps and specialists, Battlefield 2042 is engaging. However, this has meant that Portal has been left behind. I had originally hoped that a few more maps would be added, along with a few more iconic weapons from Battlefield 3Bad Company 2 and 1942. Similarly, Hazard Zone had been ditched: although it was meant to handle similarly to Modern Warfare II‘S DMZ mode, support for it was dropped after the community expressed disinterest in things.

  • Dropping Hazard Zone and focusing on Battlefield 2042 appears to have paid off, and this game really feels like it’s found its footing now. Here, I use the Rorsch MK-4 to destroy a tank, scoring a double kill in the process. This railgun is capable of dealing some damage to vehicles, and thanks to a combination of a larger magazine size and relatively fast firing rate, a skilled player can utilise it to impede and trouble vehicles. Having utilised the Rorsch MK-4 to destroy several vehicles, I conclude that this weapon is significantly more effective than the NTW-50, both for general usage and against vehicles.

  • Although I only have access to a 4x optic right now, I’ve managed to land headshots and kills from fair distances. During one match, I spawned on the roof of the factory at point Charlie and capitalised on the moment to pick off targets from afar. I had the spot to myself for over five minutes, and managed to score enough points to complete one of the weekly assignments (twelve kills in a round) with relative ease. However, after a teammate decided to do the same and occupied the corner slot, we came under fire since their sniper rifle’s glint gave us away. I ducked away, they were sniped, and I decided to revive them before leaving the rooftops.

  • This past weekend, a double XP event has been going in conjunction with a free weekend for players. This coincides with another Friday off, giving me a bit of time to get in on the fun, and thanks to the accelerated progression rate, I was able to unlock both the throwing knives and the EMKV90-TOR, a new tank tank armed with a railgun. I’ve yet to try the new tank out in a live match, since armour always gets taken immediately, but on the other hand, the throwing knives have been remarkably entertaining. With the latest season, it is clear that DICE’s additions to Battlefield 2042 have made it a significantly more enjoyable game.

  • To wrap this post off, I’ll conclude with me scoring my first kill with the throwing knives. In the frenzy of combat, I have found that the throwing knives can be used to score headshots, and while YouTube videos suggest this weapon is meant to be used for kicks, they are surprisingly effective. I managed to score a triple kill with them before dying on one occasion, and having now had a fair experience of the new content, I can say that a year since its launch, Battlefield 2042 does (against prevailing sentiment on Reddit and Twitter) deserve a second chance. We’re now into December, and this month, aside from the scheduled posts for Yama no Susume: Next Summit‘s remaining quarter, I have a few special topics posts in mind.

Similarly, because the larger maps meant players would often go from a long-range scenario into a close-quarters scenario as the dynamic in a match changed, the weapons in Battlefield 2042 were designed to be more versatile from the start. The starting assault rifle, the M5A3, can be equipped with an M11 6x optic and high-powered rounds, turning it into a makeshift marksman rifle. If one suddenly finds themselves running into a building from an open field, that same M5A3 can now be reconfigured on the fly to become an impromptu personal defense weapon that hipfires almost as well as a submachine gun. This is most apparent with the Rorsch MK-4 railgun: a successor to the MK-1 from Battlefield 4, the Rorsch MK-4 initially comes with a capacitor for semi-automatic shots that are individually damaging. In a pinch, one can equip a capacity designed to fire the weapon automatically. The weapon and map design in Battlefield 2042 both speak to versatility, and in allowing players with more options at the individual level, the game has less content overall to ensure that different combinations work well without disrupting balance, since variability with the options players have to them also need to be considered. The Rorsch MK-4 railgun is an example of this: at present, it is capable of keeping one alive at close quarters, but at long ranges, the lack of projectile drop and a high muzzle velocity, coupled with a large magazine size and relatively fast fire rate, allows it to become a high-accuracy semi-automatic weapon that can destroy entire squads at range, whereas a bolt-action rifle’s long chambering time wouldn’t allow the same. This difference is what I imagine some players are citing as being a detriment to the game: while it is true we’re getting fewer maps, vehicles and weapons in terms of numbers, the content we are getting fulfils more roles than one. Because Battlefield 2042 is now in a stable state, and with improvements being made constantly, the reasoning behind the game’s design choices become clearer: Battlefield 2042 does represent a different way to play the game, and having now seen how far the game has come, as well as where it’s headed, I am of the mind that giving Battlefield 2042 a second chance is a fair ask.