The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Gaming

Titanfall 2: First Impressions

“It is good to see you too, Pilot.” –BT-7274

Titanfall 2 is Respawn Entertainment’s sequel to its predecessor, differing chiefly in that it features a full-fledged single-player campaign. The first game presented the story of the conflict between the IMC and Militia by means of transmissions and dialogues during the prelude to some multiplayer matches; these snippets suggested that there was much that could be explored in the world of Titanfall. Thus, Titanfall 2 makes use of this fantastic setting to craft a story that does not stray far from the beaten path: after the Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation (IMC) discovers an area rich in resources and dub it the Frontier, they begin exploiting these assets with little regard for the damage they cause to worlds and their populations. A section of the IMC splinter off and become the Frontier Militia, who strive to protect their people, worlds and gain independence from the IMC. Amidst the conflict is rifleman Jack Cooper, training off the books under Captain Tai Lastimosa’s supervision with the aspirations of becoming a pilot himself someday. When a mission to the surface of IMC-held Typhon leads to Captain Lastimosa’s death, he transfers control of his Titan, BT-7274 (hitherto BT for brevity), to Cooper in his final moments, taking on the responsibility of finishing Captain Lastimosa’s mission to meet up with Major Anderson. Along the way, Cooper forms a closer link with BT and defeats Kane, an Apex Predator mercenary hired by the IMC to further their plans. With its story, Titanfall 2 treads on well-worn territory, although the real star of the show becomes apparent when Cooper is neurally linked with BT. Far more than an ordinary combat machine, BT possesses a powerful AI that enables him to be a companion of sorts for Cooper as he undertakes a mission that he has only received informal training for.

BT adds a new level of dimensionality to Titanfall 2, but as I’m only two missions into the game as of now, I can only say that the interactions between Cooper and BT right now is a friendly one even as I push further into the mission: to find Major Anderson. I am certain that there will be more to discuss about this dynamic upcoming, but in the time I have spent in Titanfall 2 already, the first thing that comes to mind is how well-designed the gameplay mechanics are. Moving around is incredibly fluid and, as a Pilot, Cooper has no trouble navigating the sheer walls and ledges in the environments. The smooth motions makes it very easy to become accustomed to parkouring through maps by taking advantages of features in the terrain. The gunplay also handles well: kills are incredibly visceral, and the weapons sound powerful. By the end of the first mission, after Cooper locates a pair of batteries to power up BT, there is an opportunity to glimpse what Titan combat is like. The default Expedition loadout for BT has proven to be my favourite so far amongst the choices available (just the Tone right now) – its 20 mm X0-16 automatic AP rifle has a high rate of fire and accuracy, while its ordinance is fantastic for locking onto multiple opponents. The vortex shield and electric smoke also make a return; the former allows BT to “catch” incoming fire and redirect it for damage, while the latter is a defensive utility for bugging out and dissuading enemies from pursuing, as the smoke can kill pilots and drain a Titan’s shields. It’s surprisingly versatile, and I find myself using the Expedition loadout far more than the Tone loadout, which features the powerful Tracker 40 mm cannon and lock-on rockets, plus a particle shield. While I’m loving the 40 mm cannon, the other aspects are a bit more tricky to use. It is with the Expedition loadout that I took with me into my duel against Kane, and after a short battle, I finished my first boss of Titanfall 2.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • After a botched landing results in Captain Lastimosa being defeated by several IMC Titans, Cooper himself is nearly eaten by Typhon’s wildlife until Lastimosa intervenes, transferring his equipment to Cooper and entrusting him with BT. The first mission in Titanfall 2 involves securing two Titan batteries for BT. These batteries, large green cylinders, are said to provide power for Titans, although given that Titans can access the nuclear ejection ability, it is likely that batteries are used in conjunction with a reactor of some sort to power the Titans.

  • While players have a chance to become familiar with the different parkour and wall-running abilities in the tutorial, the first mission is where these abilities are first put to the test. Some of the abilities, such as double jumping by means of a jump kit, are locked initially. The cliffs of Typhon’s first area are a fantastic place to begin practising; in narrower passages, where it’s possible to wall-run on one side, then hop over to another. Pilots will lose momentum as they continue wall-running, making the timing of a wall-run critical to avoiding falling to a deep chasm.

  • I’m running Titanfall 2 on the second highest settings available, since I personally cannot tell the difference between maximum settings and the tier below it: the game looks fantastic all around, whether it be the lighting effects or details in the environment. Here, I’m equipped with the R-201 Carbine, the standard all-around performing assault rifle of Titanfall 2 that replaces Titanfall‘s R-101C. With a good rate of fire, moderate damage and low recoil, it’s suited for a variety of situations, bringing to mind how I stuck with the R-101C predominantly during my Titanfall trial back during 2014.

  • Wide open spaces in the maps means that it’s useful to carry a good long-range weapon, and the Longbow-DMR fulfills this role early on in Titanfall 2. One thing that is unique about Titanfall 2 is that killing enemies will cause their helmets to pop off: when I first saw this, I thought their heads were popping off owing to the sheer firepower of the weapon. This may not be the case, but the Longbow remains an excellent all-around long-range weapon with its relatively high rate of fire and fast bullet travel time.

  • The presence of lush vegetation on Typhon suggests that it’s got a tropical or subtropical climate, evoking memories of Taiwan. When I visited back during 2014, it was in December, and the weather was still markedly more pleasant than the weather back home. While our route around the island did not take us through the Huatong Valley (we took the coastal highway before transitioning to a train from Hualien to Yilan), we did travel through some regions of Taiwan’s interior en route to the Monster Village (妖怪村) and the Sun Moon Lake (日月潭), where there are steep mountains rising up from the foggy valley.

  • All told, Cooper is required to pick up two Titan batteries from the interior of the MCS James McCallan, crashed from the operation as a result of heavy fire. The relatively pristine nature of its interior (excluding structural damage sustained during the crash) is a reminder that the vessel only crashed a few hours earlier, but the absence of personnel on board suggest that most of them were able to escape. While getting acclimatised to the jump kit, the IMC forces announce that players have the chance to surrender themselves and be spared death; BT remarks that it’s likely a lie.

  • This brings to mind the announcement that Admiral Salen Kotch has for Reyes and his forces: “surrender for immediate execution”. Kotch pulls no punches and outright tells the heroes their expected fate, whereas the IMC present a bald-faced lie. Back in the days of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, ultranationalist forces can be heard telling Captain Price and his men to surrender. Price merely responds: “ignore that load of bollocks. Their counterattack is imminent”. Back in Titanfall 2, I come across an IMC outpost and hammer it from afar with the Longbow. Stealth is also an option: pilots are equipped with a cloak that, while too short-lived to accommodate the sort of sneaking around available in Crysis, is immensely useful for getting out of a pinch.

  • In the IMC outpost, I find the Spitfire LMG, a fully automatic light machine gun great for delivering a large amount of hot lead downrange. Unlike its Titanfall counterpart, whose accuracy would improve as it was fired, the Titanfall 2 Spitfire can be fired in shorter bursts. I’ve never been big on LMGs that become more accurate as they are fired in multiplayer contexts, since it encourages a waste of ammunition and also exposes a user’s position the longer the weapon is fired. A sharp-eyed reader might notice that the parts of the weapon closest to the camera are blurry. This is a design choice in Titanfall 2, and while it makes the game feel a little more realistic, it also makes the weapons a little less visually impressive.

  • After securing two batteries for BT, Cooper is able to board for the first time, just in time for enough of a neural link to be formed for Cooper to use BT’s ordinance package, which by default, fires lock-on missiles at distant opponents. When the initial link is established, players can begin using the X0-16 20mm Automatic rifle. Boarding the titan for the first time was a powerful moment, and as any gamer can predict, players have the chance to take on enemy Titans of their own. The X0-16 makes quick work of the Brutes, common IMC Titans encountered throughout Titanfall 2‘s campaign.

  • With my mind continuously drifting towards the vast mountains and remote valleys of Taiwan’s Eastern coast, I present Synapticism, a website whose author travels the more unbeaten paths of Taiwan to explore both the ruins of Taiwan as well as the rural areas away from the major cities. It’s a remarkably well-written website with plenty of good content that presents Taiwan in a completely different perspective than would be obtained from a more traditional tour of Taiwan’s major attractions.

  • Titan-on-infantry combat is almost unfair against the IMC grunts: all of a Titan’s weapons seem like overkill, capable of ripping apart infantry very quickly. The Expedition loadout seems best suited for taking on infantry owing to multiple lock-ons offered by the ordinance and the X0-16’s larger magazine capacity. There are anti-Titan weapons for pilots on foot, and usually, it takes a degree of coordination amongst pilots to use these weapons effectively in order to eliminate an enemy Titan.

  • So far, I’m enjoying every aspect of Titanfall 2, although the HUD is a little different than what I’m used to: one’s ammunition and equipment is placed near the center of the screen, which is a strange place to situate it considering every other shooter I’ve gone through places these counters at the bottom right-hand side. This makes it a little tricky to keep track of reserve ammunition count, since I need to glance towards the lower center of my screen in order to take a look at what’s happening.

  • I can never be sure if it’s pronounced  “tohn” (IPA: “təʊn”) or “toh-ne” (利根, romanised “tone”), but I imagine it’s the former, given that the other Titans of Titanfall 2 have English names. Presumably, the Tone loadout is so-called for the fact that a tone is emitted when one acquires a lock-on, and here, I unleash the salvo core, firing a barrage of guided missiles to absolutely overwhelm enemy Titans. The default Expedition loadout confers a burst core, which continuously fires the X0-16 with a high firing rate.

  • The cavernous interior of the pump facility brings to mind the Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel (known informally as the G-cans) system in Saitama, Tokyo. Construction began in 1992 and concluded in 2006; the tunnel system is intended to redirect water and prevent flooding: the most famous section is a 177 by 78 meter water tank with a height of 25.4 meters. There’s a total of 6.4 kilometers of tunnels linking the five water tanks together, and guided tours of the facility in the Japanese language are provided. My feeble Japanese skills mean I’m unlikely to be qualified to sign up for these tours in the absence of an interpreter, but for the present, I can explore a variant of that in Titanfall 2.

  • I find a Kraber-AP Sniper, a 14.5 x 114 mm rifle that fires heavy armour piercing anti-personnel rounds that can neutralise an opponent with one shot. It features a straight-pull bolt but is still relatively slow-firing compared to other weapons, making the Kraber best suited for long range combat, although the heavy rounds have a slower muzzle velocity compared to the Longbow, requiring that one leads their shots at longer ranges. I use it here to pick off IMC soldiers, watching as their helmets pop off on a successful kill, and note that the weapon’s low magazine capacity means that the weapon, though fantastic against other pilots in the multiplayer, is less effective in the campaign than the Longbow as a long-range solution overall.

  • The EVA-8 is an automatic shotgun that unsurprisingly excels at close-quarters engagements. I use it in the tight corridors to pick off enemies. Inspection of my HUD also finds that I’m rocking an incendiary grenade, which deals damage over time. The enemies in Titanfall 2‘s campaign are a combination of IMC infantry and robots: the latter are more resilient against projectiles, and may carry the L-STAR particle rifle. Classified as an LMG, this weapon draws energy from a battery pool rather than a magazine and overheats when fired for extended periods.

  • The L-STAR can make short work of robots quickly, and causes infantry to explode into chunks of meat when shot owing to the particle rounds’ high energy. Here, I come across a “清明” (Qingming) logo. Possibly being the name of the company that runs this facility, the sign reinforces my sense that Typhon has some elements from Taiwan, although I note that the traditional and simplified characters are the same. By this point, I’ve reached the point where I’ve opened one of the values and are fighting off IMC infantry and ticks, spider-like drones that explode to deal massive damage. Unlike TheRadBrad, I managed to survive the onslaught by moving continuously, and eventually reunite with BT.

  • Unlike Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite WarfareTitanfall 2 is more similar to DOOM in that making use of the map in conjunction with staying in motion is the key to survival. The movement system in Titanfall 2 is far smoother than in Infinite Warfare, mirroring the manoeuvrability afforded by the jump kit. Hidden in levels are “pilot helmets”: similar to Call of Duty‘s intel, these collectibles encourage exploration and are required to unlock a special achievement. They’re often hidden in tough-to-reach locations, requiring a bit of parkour to reach, and while I don’t always find them, I do make an effort to reach the ones that I see.

  • The 40mm Tracker cannon is an integral part of the Tone’s loadout: the projectiles it fires contributes to the lock-on missiles’ targeting system. One feature I was initially hesitant about was the fact that the weapon’s tracers appeared to arc in a parabolic manner, but testing the weapon out, the weapon does not experience projectile drop at closer ranges. I look forward to experimenting with the Tone loadout as my main Titan setup during the campaign, since I enjoy using slower-firing, heavier-hitting weapons in general.

  • Initially, I was unaccustomed to the Tone loadout and promptly lost a bit of my health against Kane, so I switched back to the more familiar Expedition loadout and hammered his Titan to defeat him. One of the Apex Predators, Kane is somewhat unstable and is fond of calling those he considers beneath him “scrubs”. His dialogue comes across as rather humorous, and the fight is not particularly challenging – besting him allows his radio to be collected, which gives players the ability to intercept Apex Predator communications. With this mission done, I look forwards to pushing through the next stages of the campaign, but for the present, I’ve got several upcoming posts: the Amanchu! OVA releases tomorrow, while the first part of Hai-Furi‘s OVA series comes out Friday. Besides these two OVA reviews, future posts also include whole-series talks for Gabriel Dropout and Nyanko Days, both of which I found to be far more amusing than anticipated.

I am impressed, but not surprised that the campaign of Titanfall 2 has proven to be as enjoyable as it has been so far: I originally picked up Titanfall 2 during an EA Publisher sale for 60 percent off, after seeing an advertisement on Facebook for it. Prior to this, I was wondering if such a sale would occur such that I could try the game out: one of the reasons I became interested in Titanfall 2 was owing to its soundtrack: the rich, soaring sounds of the track “BT-7274”, and the melancholy yet optimistic “Rifleman Cooper” stand as my favourite tracks. The majestic, purposeful presentation of these songs brings to mind a rather unusual image: the heavily forested mountains and foggy valleys of Taiwan’s interior. I suspect this is in part owing to a memory bias, since my iPod continuously gave me Titanfall music while on shuffle, during my vacation to Taiwan two and a half years previously. Still, the songs seem rather fitting, describing the steep peaks and remote roads that cross Taiwan’s eastern edge nicely. Indeed, Typhon seems to feel a little like Taiwan, with its lush vegetation and unforgiving terrain: it’s the perfect backdrop for Cooper’s journeys, and consequently, I am looking forwards to pushing through Titanfall 2 to see what adventures await Cooper and BT. Doubtlessly, regardless of what challenges Cooper faces, BT’s presence will be sufficient to maintain morale and allow Cooper to realise his own ambitions of becoming a pilot Captain Lastimosa would be proud of.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare- At the halfway point

“The Internet is for haters. Everyone wants to knock somebody down, but it’s cool.” —Andy Cohen

After repelling the SDF fleet and forcing them into a temporary retreat, Commander Reyes sets out on his assignment, starting by re-capturing the lunar port to ensure Earth is not cut off from supplies. Subsequently, side missions become available, where Reyes and the Retribution can carry out strikes against the SDF forces to steal or recover weapons, eliminate targets of value or else damage SDF assets. All of this leads up to Infinite Warfare‘s halfway point, a mission set in Titan, the largest of Saturn’s moons, in order to destroy a refuelling facility and cripple the SDF’s fuel supply. Combining both infantry combat and aerial dog fights with the Jackals, Infinite Warfare continues to be an entertaining game that presents an opportunity to travel around the different locations of the Solar System in order to defeat a militant faction: whether it be the grey, rolling hills on the moon, the yellow, muggy and hostile surface of Titan, the desolation of Uranus and Neptune or the familiar Earth, Infinite Warfare vividly portrays these settings to give the sense that the player is exploring and fighting in environments that have hitherto remain unexplored, creating a series of worlds that keeps each mission in the campaign novel and free of repetition.

One of the elements I’m enjoying most about Infinite Warfare are the weapons’ versatility and customisations available within the campaign: prior to each mission, players can fine tune their loadout very specifically, outfitting their weapons with the optics and attachments to best fit their play-style. There is also a recommended loadout for folks who simply want to get into the missions without worrying too much about whether or not a particular set of weapons will work. For instance, in Operation Burn Water, the mission to Titan, the recommended loadout is the EBR-800 with suppressor and foregrip, with the suppressed Kendall 44 as a secondary weapon. Given that much of this mission begins as a stealth mission, it makes sense to have suppressed weapons. However, as things progress, the mission invariably goes loud. Thus, I swapped out the Kendall 44 for the Erad, a submachine gun that can alternatively be used as a shotgun. The future setting of Infinite Warfare means that weapons designers have more creative freedom, resulting in remarkably versatile weapons that allow me to play through the campaign without worrying about whether or not I’m carrying the right weapons for the task at hand: in fact, weapons that can transition between two firing modes, like the Erad and EBR-800, are sufficiently adaptable so that I can stick with one weapon and carry a powerful secondary weapon, such as the P-LAW laser weapon or the Spartan shoulder-fired rocket launcher to deal with heavier opposition. Not affecting the game’s difficulty in any way, this ability merely changes how one feels about dealing with the different levels.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The mission on the lunar port is known as Operation Port Armour, featuring some nifty combat sequences afforded by the fact that the large windows throughout the concourse can be shot out, sending SDF soldiers to their doom. Immediately, the SDF’s actions are made known when some of Reyes’ squad mates mention that the SDF do not take prisoners – they are later seen shooting civilians openly.

  • Reminiscent of both the Principality of Zeon (Mobile Suit Gundam and all Universal Century stories) and Vers Empire (Aldnoah.Zero), the SDF is determinedly presented as an evil antagonist whose entire existence is to wipe out SATO and the UNSA. Snippets of text found throughout Infinite Warfare, and from the death screens note that the SDF is a militaristic entity wholly dedicated to victory, possessing a Social Darwinist ideology and believing that they are the rightful controllers of humanity. With their ideology ruled by ruthlessness and strength, Girls und Panzer‘s Shiho Nishizumi looks like an absolute moderate by comparison, and one “Daigensui” would be likely count the SDF’s beliefs as appropriate.

  • Naturally, anyone with a sense of empathy and compassion would immediately see the SDF as the antagonists, a threat to be dealt with and as such, find them an easy opponent to rally against in Infinite Warfare. A simple, black-and-white approach to determining the factions allows Infinite Warfare to focus on its gameplay and core thematic element of sacrifice. Back on the lunar terminal, I continue pushing through, lighting up SDF forces along the way. I pick up a shield and F-SpAr torch along the way, but being blown out into the vacuum forces me to relinquish these assets.

  • With most of the port cleared out, it’s time to go find a Coast Guard Jackal and engage enemy forces outside. By this point in Infinite Warfare, I’ve learned that energy weapons are slightly more effective against robots than organic targets, as well as that the TTK (time to kill) is a bit higher here than it is in earlier Call of Duty titles: it takes at least a fifth of a magazine to down opponents with body shots.

  • While ostensibly lighter-armoured and more lightly armed compared to the SATO Jackals, I manage just fine with a Coast Guard Jackal here, engaging the SDF Skelters and other vessels alike without much difficulty. Defeating the SDF here returns control of the port over to the UNSA, and Reyes’ team takes off to continue pushing back remaining SDF forces in the area.

  • The first Infinite Warfare trailer depicted the space combat of Operation Port Armour, coupled with the part of the mission involving the infiltration of an SDF destroyer. One YouTube, this video holds the infamy of being one of the most disliked videos of all time, having over 3.5 million dislikes. A part of me wanted to try Infinite Warfare and find good things to say about it just so I could stick it to the folks who hate Call of Duty. Despite being the third consecutive instalment in the main franchise to be set in the future, Infinite Warfare has the most solid storyline and interesting maps.

  • While Infinite Warfare is superior to Ghosts and Advanced Warfare for the most part, Advanced Warfare has a more innovative HUD: weapon and utility counts are projected as AR elements directly onto the weapon in world space, rather than in screen space as with more traditional elements. Infinite Warfare returns to a screen space based HUD that is relatively minimalistic and useful, although like the other Call of Duty titles I’ve gone through, I find myself running out of ammunition and reloading during inopportune moments more frequently than in other shooters owing to the way the game plays.

  • The first of the side missions that I took on was Operation Phoenix, set in an asteriod field near Uranus. The goal is to sneak onboard an SDF cruiser and recover a prototype Jackal fighter armed with laser weapons. With a slower firing rate and higher damage, the laser was developed by SDF teams; the SDF’s emphasis on military means that they are more advanced than SATO forces with respect to equipment, rather like how Zeon was the first to employ mobile suits and Vers had Kataphrakts powered by the Aldnoah system.

  • The second side mission I attempted was Operation Taken Dagger: over Neptune, I participated in the rescue of UNSA engineers and recover a prototype heavy weapon. One of the more entertaining aspects about space combat in Infinite Warfare is the ability to use a grappling hook as a weapon to execute SDF soldiers. This marks the first time since 007: Agent Under Fire where I’ve had access to a grappling hook – the Q-Claw of Agent Under Fire  was remarkably amusing to use in the multiplayer, being able to adhere to any surface and pull a user along quickly to otherwise unreachable places on the map.

  • Stealth is usually the smartest option where available: I snuck around the shadows and used melee takedowns to silently dispatch SDF soldiers, making use of a proximity scan to constantly track where enemy soldiers were. With all of the engineers rescued, the next part of the mission is to recover the prototype P-LAW and make use of it: like all of the heavy weapons, it is an immensely powerful weapon that shreds and is balanced out with its inability to be resupplied from ammunition creates.

  • Operation Safe Harbour involves defending space stations from SDF forces in orbit above the Earth. Beyond the usual engagement of SDF Skelters, there is also a pair of SDF destroyers that need to be eliminated, as well. They possess heavy armour and are bristling with weapons: my strategy was to stay afar and eliminate the weapons first with the 30 mm cannon, before pounding the ships with the 50 mm cannon. It’s a bit of an arduous process, but sustained fire results in a very rewarding sight as the SDF destroyer explodes in a blinding flash of light.

  • On my HUD, it says that I’ve defeated an enemy ace in combat. The aces and other high-value targets are figures instrumental to the SDF, but fighting them in the chaos means that there’s no stage-piece boss battle – they would fully blend amongst the regular forces were it not for an indicator over their person, and while they might be slightly tougher than an ordinary soldier, they can still be downed pretty quickly, bringing to mind how quickly bosses in Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands are taken out.

  • The last of the side missions I took on before moving on to Operation Burn Water was Operation Pure Threat, set in an asteroid thicket above Europa. What initially looks to be a waste of time, when Reyes finds a derelict SDF vessel, turns out to be an ambush, and in the chaos, I bag yet another elite SDF pilot. In something like Gundam and Aldnoah, figures of importance usually pilot more powerful machines, but the reality is that ace pilots are known for their skill rather than the quality of their weapons. As such, in Infinite Warfare, while ace pilots may manoeuvre more skilfully, they aren’t any harder to shoot down than other enemies.

  • The missions to infiltrate SDF vessels and recover high value items brings to mind the sort of challenges surrounding learning about when Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name is coming out as a home release in Japan. I’ve been keeping an eye on developments, but it seems that news of box office figures, merchandise for sale and general gushing about the film is the only information that exists. There is little doubt in my mind that trying to figure out when this movie will be out on BD is about as difficult as infiltrating an SDF destroyer and stealing a weapons prototype: one wonders what the rationale for being this tight-lipped about the release date is.

  • While Your Name will have to wait for the present, there are fortunately things that can be taken care of in the present, and enjoying Infinite Warfare is one of them. Finally starting Operation Burn Water, I am inserted onto the surface of Titan. It’s a very vivid depiction of what the only moon in the solar system to possess a dense atmosphere looks like: while most of the surface is flat, there are mountains exceeding 1000 meters in height in some places. The game also captures the presence of hydrocarbon lakes and precipitation on Titan’s surface very nicely. Being on Titan also brings to mind a line from Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes, in which “methane clouds rain sodium hydroxide, a caustic alkali!”. Sodium hydroxide is not a known form of precipitation on Titan; methane clouds would simply rain methane in liquid form.

  • With this in mind, the chemical reaction between sodium hydroxide and sodium acetate can undergo a reaction to form methane and sodium carbonate (NaOH + CH3COONa → CH4 + Na2CO3). As we have the reaction, I could probably calculate the reaction enthalpies and determine what the energy for the reaction is, then decide whether or not it is feasible for exotic conditions to produce sodium hydroxide in aqueous form from methane clouds in an environment that humans can survive in without any sort of protection. However, I do not imagine readers are here to learn about chemistry: it’s time to return the discussion to Infinite Warfare. After playing the stealth game and sneaking through SDF-occupied grounds, I clear a landing zone for friendly forces, which bring an allied C12 tank along with some heavy armour. These monstrosities are “a cooler version of E3N”, bringing vast amounts of firepower with them and can absorb an incredible amount of damage. Small arms will not harm them at all, requiring a rocket launcher or F-SpAr torch to take out. Having one in my corner allows hordes of SDF soldiers to be dispatched with ease.

  • After the Olympus Mons appears, the C12 and heavy weapons are decimated. An air strike is the only option, and Reyes takes to the skies once more, shooting down multiple SDF air elements before landing at a terminal to remove the safeties, allowing pressures to reach dangerous levels. Once the facility is cleared, it’s a simple matter of lighting the fuse and watching a rather impressive explosion from the fuelling tower.

  • The EBR-800 has quickly turned into one of my favourite weapons: it doubles as an assault rifle and can be counted upon in a pinch. Looking through my site’s archive, March has been a busy month, featuring 56 percent more posts than February even though I’ve been about as busy at work this month as I was last month. It’s not often that I have time to sit down and relax, but weekends are the time to do so: the weather’s finally beginning to feel like spring, and after stepping out today for some errands, I also enjoyed fried chicken for dinner. A year ago, I was on the flight home from Laval, and although I fell ill shortly after returning, I recovered just in time for exam season to kick in. These days, I’ve got no exams, although my subconscious plainly thinks I’m still a student; one dream I had recently was that I failed to submit assignments for several consecutive weeks, only to begin wondering why I was concerned before waking up.

  • Despite making it back out, Reyes is shot down and left adrift in orbit around Titan with E3N. It’s hauntingly beautiful up here, and E3N’s presence is a reassuring one, keeping Reyes company until the Tigress picks him up. One aspect I’ve not mentioned too much yet is Sergeant Omar’s gradual warming to E3N – despite considering him a disposable tool early on, Omar comes to trust E3N and cracks jokes with Reyes, being a character I’ve come to respect. The characters in Infinite Warfare share a strong sense of camaraderie, allowing me relate and yearn to see what happens next to them next.

After learning that the side missions reset with the completion of a main mission, I’m likely to go back and finish all of the side missions I’ve unlocked so far, having completed Operation Burn Water, before moving onto the next mission. Unlike previous instalments of Call of Duty except maybe Black Ops III, Infinite Warfare has created a new means of approaching missions and encouraging replay of its campaign. Consequently, while the space shooter setting might be viewed as being derivative or unremarkable, Infinite Warfare‘s campaign has proven to be the strongest of the Call of Duty campaigns since the days of Modern Warfare, offering numerous options for players even if the game ultimately is very linear in nature. These directions also mean that, with the new choices available for players, the game will take a bit longer to complete. Consequently, I’m going to switch over to Titanfall 2 and also go through the Call of Duty Modern Warfare: Remastered campaigns in the near future; owing to upcoming events, I would like to complete these games before said event arrives. With this being said, I am not leaving Infinite Warfare behind: most likely, I will resume once mid-May arrives.

Battlefield 1: I Shall Not Pass- A Spring Patch Reflection

“A man is usually more careful of his money than of his principles.” –Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Although I am well aware that the first Battlefield 1 DLC is titled They Shall Not Pass, I’ve chosen to title this post “I Shall Not Pass” because of my present decision to not purchase the DLC or Premium upgrade. While I’ve been having a fabulous time in Battlefield 1 as of late, I’m likely to remain a little more reserved until I learn more about the remaining DLC packages. From the footage I’ve seen of They Shall Not Pass, the French maps look wonderful (and a part of me purchased Battlefield 1 simply so I could light things up in Gallia France): one map features a field abloom with poppies, while another features a sleepy French village that Yoshika might find herself stopping by while visiting Lynette and Perrine. There’s also a map with a large fortress at its center whose close-quarters layout could make it the new Operation Locker. The new weapons are interesting, adding new dimensionality to the play, as well. There is a new Behemoth and French tank, along with the Trench Raider elite class. So far, the DLC looks reasonably fun, and personally, the French maps are the most appealing element of this DLC. With this being said, the next DLC is going to be titled In The Name Of The Tsar, and if the Russian maps provide snowy environments for combat, I will almost certainly purchase the Premium upgrade, if only for the fact that I will be able to experience both the Strike Witches (Gallian) and Brave Witches (Orussia) fronts in the Frostbite 3 Engine. I am surprisingly close to my stipulated goal of having two classes at rank ten, so the Premium purchase could be very real on my horizon.

While I’ve not tried the new maps, weapons or vehicles, the release of They Shall Not Pass has also brought some changes to the gameplay in Battlefield 1: grenades are now lessened in count, forcing players to finally run with fewer gas grenades. Weapons have also been modified, with the most noticeable change coming for the medic class’ self-loading rifles. Spread increase and magnitude has been reduced for these weapons, allowing them to be fired more accurately, with the optical versions acquiring an even more appreciable decrease in spread. The net effect of these changes mean that medic weapons are now more useful at range while being able to maintain a respectable rate of fire (for semi-automatic weapons): in practise, this allows me to hit distant opponents at longer ranges, and during one match, I landed a headshot on another player from around 150 meters. Although they ducked behind cover, that I can now have more confidence in engaging targets at this range is a huge boost. The medic class is my second most-used class, so having better weapons offers a much better experience; I know that I can hold my own at long ranges now while healing team-mates, although better shot placement could also make my close quarters engagements a bit more manageable.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ve now got some 28 hours in Battlefield 1, and my performance has been steadily improving with respect to contributions to the team. Although I don’t top the scoreboards or have the best KD ratio, I do manage to score quite well despite having a smaller number of kills because of my emphasis on team play beyond merely camping at a capture point. Compared to most folks, I actually don’t game as often or as hard: while my interests suggest otherwise, I’m actually quite casual.

  • In a match of conquest, after spawning into a Mark V whose cannon was jammed despite the vehicle being in full health, I died and respawned, switching out to the medic class so I could try out the M1907 SL Sweeper, a medic self-loading rifle with the option for automatic fire. Because of the setting, options for a good RDS are non-existent, and so, I tend not to do so well with the iron sights. With this being said, it is immensely satisfying to land a good shot with the iron sights, especially at longer ranges.

  • I usually find myself in the thick of things owing to how I play Battlefield, although how hard I push will be determined by which class I’m running with. The medic can occupy the mid-range role quite nicely, allowing me to hang out behind attacking teammates to heal or revive. There are other occasions where I will die from carelessness, but because I’m pushing forward with my team, I will likely get revived by a friendly medic. I don’t communicate with other players with a microphone, preferring the text chat to ask for support or instructions as required.

  • The medic ribbon for getting seven kills in a round looks quite nice, and I obtain one here after lighting up another player with the M1907 Sweeper. As of now, I’ve purchased around four primary weapons for each class except for the scout, but have done nothing about sidearms or melee weapons. For folks who play more Battlefield 1 than myself, the DLC might just be worth it to gain more variety, but in my case, I’ve got a ways to go before I yearn for more diversity in my gameplay. With this being said, the new maps in They Shall Not Pass look beautiful and, while more experienced Battlefield players may digress, seem to be worth the price of admissions.

  • After being given increased horizontal recoil in the previous patch, light machine guns are a little trickier to use, but during one match of domination where my team was steam-rolled by the other, I finally acclimitised to the recoil patterns of the BAR Storm and scored seven kills to obtain the support ribbon. In the latest update, ribbons now give 500 experience points rather than 300, making them even more rewarding to obtain.

  • Post-patch, the BAR Storm remains a formidable close-quarters LMG. As of late, I’ve found less time to play Battlefield 1: things have been rather active in the real world. This past weekend was a double experience weekend, but I only got three conquest matches in. On Saturday, I visited the International Truck and Auto Show, stopping by a restaurant in the neighbourhood to have Chinese-style fried chicken marinated in oyster sauce and a grilled fish with deep-fried bones. Yesterday was my dōjō’s annual Spring Banquet (a buffet style luncheon featuring sweet and sour pork, ginger beef, fried noodles, spring rolls, fried chicken, gaozi and beef skewers, plus mango tapioca). I attend with my family every year, although I skipped last year on account of the banquet being set on the eve of my flight to Laval.

  • In a particularly brutal match of TDM where my team was losing, I managed to find a flamethrower and went on an 8-killstreak, burning to death players who tried to knife me. It was enough to raise my KD ratio and turned the entire match around, with my team winning by exactly one point by the time everything was said and done. I’ve been in several losing matches where my team would somehow mount a comeback and win by a very small margin, sometimes, these were as close as one point.

  • It’s the first day of Spring today, being the Vernal Equinox. This bitterly cold winter comes to a close, although with the weather in the Foothills, I imagine we could be hit with a handful of spring snowstorms before warmer weather sets in to stay as the days grow longer. Last week marked the beginning of Daylight Savings time, and while it did mess with some schedules out there, in addition to potentially reducing the amount of time one sleeps, it also marks the welcome return of light.

  • A sharp-eyed viewer will note that I only do major posts for the winter and summer solstices: the transition from winter to spring, though welcome, is set in the month of March, which has always been a quieter time of year for me. During my school days, it would be midterm season, and in the present, I’m pushing further into the ResearchKit and CoreData frameworks for my work. It feels a little strange, but very liberating, not to have a number of assignments, papers and exams on my plate: while work is definitely more high-paced than university, gone are the days of rote memorisation to pass exams.

  • I tended to end up KD negative or lose on Sinai Desert, making it one of my least favourite maps. However, this is a map that is quite unsuited for close-quarters weapons in most areas – I’ve had the most success either by equipping a good weapon with optics, such as the Mondragón sniper here to shoot someone from a ways away, or else simply stayed within the town area to pick off lone players with close quarters weapons. This particular match turned out quite entertaining, and I did quite well.

  • I definitely will need to go back and give all of the weapons I’ve unlocked a shot; at the minimum, I should get service stars for all of the weapons I’ve already got, and aim to try the weapons whose specs are less suited for my play-style. The concept of weapon mastery returns from Battlefield 4, with a special codec entry unlocking for folks with five hundred kills in a weapon. The counter only began with the winter patch, so it’ll be a while before I get to any weapon masteries in Battlefield 1.

  • During one match of conquest, I spawned into a light tank, having forgotten to set it to the heavy tank in the menu earlier, but I went on a 9-killstreak with the tank, rolling over the hill and blasting the enemy team with the canister shells. Playing more carefully and strategically allowed me to last much longer than I usually would: my efforts very nearly allowed my team to catch up in scoring as we captured points charlie and delta on Giant’s Shadow.

  • The light tank remains my favourite vehicle in spite of how toned-down it is in Battlefield 1 compared to its beta incarnation: as a single-seater, it means that if I am surrounded as a result of ill-fortunates or carelessness, then only I die as a result. With a heavy tank, a successful kill can lead to the deaths of up to six team members. The ribbon here is for scoring seven or more kills with a tank in a round, and now, with ribbons present, there is definitely more incentive for me to try out other play-styles.

  • With my team losing and a terrible driver operating the armoured train, I was on the verge of death here, but managed to get another kill to earn my first-ever ribbon for scoring three or more kills with a behemoth. I typically avoid spawning into the driver seat, since I lack the means to effectively communicate with teammates on where the behemoth should go. Instead, my most effective operation of the armoured train is when I’m given access to a weapon for defending the train from threats. I’ve never used the sixth seat before, but the 20mm auto-cannon wrecks both light vehicles and infantry. There was a landship bombarding us from across the map, and although the 20mm rounds did negligible damage, its firing rate meant I could put enough shells down-range to force it to retreat. Ultimately, an incompetent driver meant the train contributed minimally to the team’s attempt at a comeback, but it was fun to try the 20mm auto-cannon for the first time.

  • I don’t normally run with the scout class, but like every Battlefield before this one, I’ve always taken up the scout class last. Sniping has never really been my speciality in multiplayer shooters, but with some time, it’s a class that I can perform modestly well with. Battlefield 1 has proven especially friendly to new-time snipers: the SMLE Mk.III Marksman variant, the starting sniper rifle, also happens to be one of the best weapons. With a sweet spot spanning 40 to 70 meters, it’s ideal for closer range engagements, although as I learn here with a 158 meter headshot, it’s also effective out to longer ranges.

  • Although dealing little direct damage to vehicles, the main utility of K-bullets is to stop a vehicle from repairing at range, allowing one’s teammates to finish it off. My first ever kill with the K-bullets, however, came on a match of conquest. I was running from capture point echo to foxtrot and noticed a heavy tank nearby, so I hid in some foliage after spotting it. Some teammates began shooting at the tank, dealing some damage, and I fired a few K-bullets at it. What I did not expect was for the tank to explode after I fired my third round. Through all of this, the tank driver never noticed me sitting in the bushes.

  • My team ended up winning this round by quite a margin, and I was surprised at how much fun the scout class can be. While I cannot heal or resupply teammates as a scout, I can use my spotting flares to help friendlies determine where hostile forces are – it’s fun to fire a flare into a capture point, watch as the map lights up with hostiles, and then watch as teammates come in to clear it out.

  • This conquest match of Suez was quite one-sided: my team pushed forward and quickly captured every point except for alpha, pushing the enemy team to one side of the map. They dug in and soon, most of their players had taken up long range weapons, going prone. I managed to go on a kill-streak thanks to these stationary players, racking up a number of sniper kills on these players. On some occasion, the other team would sneak up and take capture point delta, but alert teammates would expediently recapture it.

  • Here, I end up with another scout ribbon after making my fourteenth kill in the conquest match. I ended up placing fifth overall on a team of thirty despite having only a small number of kills relative to those who placed in the top five primarily because of my PTFO styles. All of these points contribute to my scout score, so I’m not bothered as to whether or not they come from kills or team contributions. During the course of this match, I also made rank two for the sniper class, allowing me access to the Gewehr M.95 marksman variant and M1903 marksman, plus new melee weapons that can cut through barbed wire.

  • After a hectic match on Monte Grappa to test out the longer range medic weapons, I ended up on a flank that saw me cut back to capture point echo, where I shot an unsuspecting AA operator in the head. I proceeded to nearly finish capturing echo with some teammates, with the game ending before I could fully capture the point. With the ending of this post and the beginning of spring, we look ahead into the future: upcoming posts will include Sora no Woto‘s finale discussion, plus a talk on Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth to coincide with my setting out for Laval a year ago.

Looking ahead, Battlefield 1 continues to play well, although regenerating grenades has not been welcome, taking away from the traditional Battlefield feel of having a necessity to depend on a good support player. Recent news of the prospect of regenerating consumable gadgets is equally unwelcome: being able to resupply these only with a support player’s assistance contributed greatly to the team component of earlier Battlefield games, and to be able to allow these to regenerate on their own would decrease team play. Hopefully, negative reception from the community will prevent this feature from seeing the light of day. The joy of Battlefield for me is being able to resupply and heal players, so if players have no incentive to seek out a means to replenish their stores of gadgets, then it means the support class would become next to useless. Team play is an integral part of Battlefield, and while I might not be the best shooter or vehicle operator, I do my utmost to help my team out using the means available within the game. This is why a Premium purchase will likely wait until both more DLC is released and to see if DICE is intending on reducing elements that encourage players to work together towards victory — if DICE is responsive to the feedback and continues to deliver DLC that adds variety to Battlefield 1, I could see myself going down the premium route. If that happens, one might also reasonably expect to see a GochiUsa emblem if they fall to me.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare- Impressions of the campaign after an hour

“This is Admiral Salen Kotch of the Olympus Mons. You are defeated. Death is no disgrace!” -Admiral Salen Kotch

Despite being one of the most maligned installments in the Call of Duty franchise, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (Infinite Warfare from here on out for brevity) managed to pull my curiosity with its setting and premise, where humanity’s efforts to colonise other locales in the solar system eventually results in the formation of a radical military faction known as the Settlement Defense Front (SDF), who mount an assault against the United Nations Space Alliance (UNSA) to break a long-standing stalemate. The game begins with a botched operation to retrieve a weapons prototype, and in the aftermath, the SDF launch a surprise on the UNSA, crippling their fleet during the Fleet Week celebration events through a combination of hijacking the UNSA’s AATIS guns and through the deployment of the Olympus Mons, the SDF’s flagship that is now armed with the F-SpAr weapon. Despite the efforts of Leftenant Nick Reyes, only two UNSA vessels survive — he is subsequently promoted to Commander and given captaincy of the Retribution, with the mission of delaying the SDF long enough for the UNSA to rebuild their fleet. Through the campaign’s first few missions, I’ve seen the unsuccessful mission to retrieve the F-SpAr, watched the SDF attack on Fleet Week celebrations and have flown into space with the Jackal interdiction fighter, capable of operating in both an atmosphere and the vacuum of space. So far, it’s been a fantastic introduction to Infinite Warfare, and all of the negativity out there surrounding Infinite Warfare appears to have been left behind on the surface as I take flight into the void of space and begin the task of regaining the initiative in a fight with the SDF.

The premise of extremist groups forming shortly after human efforts to colonise space has long been explored as a topic in Mobile Suit Gundam, where the EFSF began contending with the Principality of Zeon as political relations between earth and its colonies decayed. In a manner of speaking, Infinite Warfare appears to be what Mobile Suit Gundam would look like had the weapons and concepts been designed in North America as opposed to Japan, featuring fighter craft in place of humanoid mecha but otherwise share the fundamental idea of a totalitarian regime fighting against a weary democratic system, opening with a surprise attack and placing focus around one ship (the Retribution stands in for White Base and the Nahel Argama). However, instead of watching things, Infinite Warfare places players directly into the boots of a pilot set in a world where there are no exceptionally powerful weapons. The absence of a powerful game-changer such as the Gundam means that Infinite Warfare is aiming to tell a different story about war than Mobile Suit Gundam does — while Gundam aims to show the horrors of warfare, it also strives to discuss the possibility and what can lie beyond war, achieved because of an extraordinary weapon that defeats other weapons. Lacking this, Infinite Warfare is perhaps more cautious in its story, and this is where I am headed now in the campaign, to see what happens next to Commander Reyes and the Retribution.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Even though I know it’s well-crafted skybox, reflective materials and a single directional light, in conjunction with some shaders, the view from Europa’s surface is phenomenal; I spend a few moments admiring it before I proceed with the mission. When I first started Infinite Warfare, I was hit immediately with a hiccough in that the game would freeze up, crash and send me back to my desktop. It plainly was not my computer’s specs, so I did some investigation and found that AVG was causing the issue. Adding the entire directory fixes things, and at last, I find myself ready to begin.

  • The question I can expect of some readers would be why in the world I would even consider, much less go through and play a game like Infinite Warfare. Aside from the fact that I am Infinite Zenith, the honest answer is that I’ve been intrigued by the game’s premise, and the campaign seemed to be a fun adventure. Thus, while some folks may express a certain amount of disgust, yes, I did end up buying the game and I’m enjoying it, so I will be doing talks on this game, although not with the same frequency as I did for each of the war stories from Battlefield 1.

  • The weapons in Infinite Warfare are quite foreign to me despite being derived off modern firearms. I’m wielding the NV4 here, the default SATO assault rifle. With low recoil and a slower firing rate, the weapon is a ballistic type, meaning it can punch through walls. The weapon players equip has a variable magnification holographic sight and a suppressor, reflecting on the operation’s covert nature.

  • The secondary weapon players have access to is the FHR-40, a ballistics-based submachine gun resembling the FN P90. With a large magazine and high rate of fire, the weapon is countered with weaker rounds and higher recoil. Moving swiftly through the facility and clearing out any SDF forces, the seventh SCAR team quickly makes its way to where the F-SpAr prototype is. Players control Dan “Wolf” Lyall in this mission.

  • One of the heavy weapons in Infinite Warfare, the F-SpAr torch is a man-portable version of the F-SpAr directed energy weapon and is the only weapon that can damage the C12 bipedal tanks that appear. The beam emitted by the weapon can lock onto enemies and explode organics into a red paste; the weapon’s damage output is immense, but so is its firing rate (it can burn through an entire magazine in seconds). Despite their efforts, Lyall’s team fails their mission and are ultimately executed by Kotch’s men.

  • The Geneva, Switzerland of the future is filled with skyscrapers; beautifully rendered here, the combination of a cityscape with large battleships gives a sense of scale that provides an impressive backdrop. E3N is introduced here, and I immediately take a liking to his personality, which gives the sense of being both reliable and having a witty character that adds much to lighten up the atmosphere in what is otherwise a very serious-feeling game.

  • After the dropship I’m riding is shot down by the AATIS network, Reyes finds himself crashing into a shopping centre where SDF forces have landed; they begin shooting civilians, but before Reyes and Salter can be killed, Reyes is given the Kendall 44 sidearm and takes out two SDF soldiers. I immediately set about finding a primary weapon. The first weapon that I encountered was the Karma-45, which resembles the Kris Vector 45 ACP.

  • While there are skyscrapers all around, Reyes is shot down over the older districts of Geneva, as evidenced by the buildings here. SDF soldiers all around begin massacring civilians, and one aspect of the game that unsettled me was when I accidentally fired upon what appeared to be a civilian crossing my sights, killing them. However, even with this occurrence, the game itself did not end, standing in contrast with shooters that enforce a do-no-harm approach.

  • One feature in Infinite Warfare that I particularly like is the grenade cooking indicator, which shows how long one has before the grenade will go off. Because enemies will try to vacate the blast radius of a grenade, cooking one will give them much less time to react. The feature was added in Call of Duty: Ghosts, which had a few space missions but otherwise looked unremarkable. I ended up passing over this one, and from the sounds of things, Ghosts proved quite unpopular.

  • Here, I am equipped with the Volk, a directed-energy assault rifle that resembles the AK-47 in design. Having a high damage but low accuracy and rate of fire, the weapon is quite commonly found in-game. Insofar, I’m not too sure what the precise difference between energy weapons and ballistic weapons are: I’ve heard that energy weapons can regenerate ammunition in their magazines over time but cannot penetrate surfaces, whereas ballistic weapons are more powerful and can punch through surfaces.

  • Here, I wield the RAW light machine gun, pushing through the burning streets of Geneva en route to the AATIS control station. Owing to the way the weapons work in Infinite Warfare work, it stands to reason that it’s a good idea to have an energy weapon and a ballistic weapon so one can be ready for most situations. In general, I always stick with a good all-around weapon, like an assault rifle, and then pair it with any other weapon with a more specialised role.

  • An SDF gunship makes it difficult to close in on the AATIS control facility, but fortunately, one has access to some friendly close-air support, which will sweep through the area and clear out large numbers of enemies very quickly. With this feature in mind, I pushed up the hill and hid in a downed dropship while awaiting for the support to come back online after taking out ground infantry.

  • Designating the SDF gunship as a target is the only way I can think of for taking it out quickly: other mechanisms are ineffective or will expose one to the elements, since I don’t think there are any MANPADs conveniently hanging around for players to use. Once this threat is neutralised, players enter the facility and regain control of the AATSI guns, learning that there is a spy, Akeel Min Riah, an SDF agent responsible for sabotaging the UNSA. After Riah is apprehended, Reyes and the other SCAR operatives take to the skies.

  • The transition from boots-on-the-ground gameplay to taking control of a spacecraft is remarkably smooth, and if I had to guess, I imagine that the cutscenes incorporate some trickery to give the sense of multi-scale; through my research, I realised that true multi-scale will likely remain unattainable with current generation technology owing to the allocation of resources in order to smoothly transition from one scale to another. Instead, various sleight of hand techniques, such as altering the scale of objects and spaces, are used to convey differences in scale.

  • The first space combat sequence of Infinite Warfare is ferocious and fast-paced. One of the features that proved to be unexpected was how the Jackals handle in flight. Movement is more similar to walking than flying, similar to the Banshees of Halo, and so, I found that it makes more sense to have standard mouse look directions while in flight, rather than the inverted that I prefer for conventional flight controls.

  • The “dog fight mode” mechanic from Ace Combat: Assault Horizon appears in Infinite Warfare, allowing players to lock onto fast-moving enemies and have the autopilot steer so that they may concentrate on shooting. The mechanic was a bit of a contentious point, but it’s straightforwards to shoot down enemy fighters without it: to those folks who dislike it, there’s nothing stopping them from simply not using it. Further to this, it turns out that higher difficulties remove this ability entirely, forcing players to depend on a sure aim to shoot down SDF fighters.

  • While we are on the topic of Ace CombatAce Combat 7: Skies Unknown was recently announced for PC. There’s no concrete release date, but the game is powered by the Unreal Engine and set in Strangereal, making it the first-ever Ace Combat game set in Strangereal to be on PC. The game’s a little more than half finished by this point in time and is likely to come out later this year; I’m excited and might pick it up shortly after launch if the PC version proves to be well-received. Back in Infinite Warfare, I pummel an enemy cruiser here with the 50 mm cannon, eventually turning it into a glowing pile of wreckage.

  • The sudden arrival of the Olympus Mons was a bit of a shock and changes up the tenour dramatically: listening to the radio chatter, a sense of concern is conveyed when Salter and the others note that nothing the SATO forces have is effective against the super-carrier. However, exhibiting the qualities of a capable leader, Reyes orders his forces to concentrate fire on the vessel even as it destroys a SATO vessel in one shot. This action is reminiscent of Théoden King, who rallied his men and ordered them to “reform the line” when the oliphants appeared.

  • These overwhelmingly large beasts instill fear in their enemies through their size, but in giving his orders, Théoden forces his men to rally and regroup before fear kicks in, causing discord. His decision to take them head-on might be questionable from a tactical perspective, as it would maximise casualties, but from a strategic perspective, was probably a better move, since the act would show the Haradrim that their greatest weapon, fear, would not be efficacious here. Returning to Infinite Warfare, the Olympus Mons is the largest and most powerful warship ever built in this universe, with a length of 927 meters. Reyes hands control over to Ethan and things momentarily becomes a rail shooter, where the only goal is to damage the ballistic cannons on the Olympus Mons.

  • The Retribution executes a tactical collision (really a more professional way of saying “we’re ramming it”), forcing the Olympus Mons to retreat. In the aftermath, Reyes returns to the Retribution and learns of the extent of the damage that the SDF has inflicted. He is promoted to commander and tasked with keeping SDF forces at bay while the SATO fleet regroups and rebuilds. Speaking freely, I’m highly excited to push forwards with the campaign after the first set of missions, but the unexpected arrival of the Kiniro Mosaic: Pretty Days OVA will require some minor adjustments to my schedule so I can get a talk out on that soon.

An hour into Infinite Warfare, and I’ve been quite pleased at how smoothly the game handles, both with respect to the boots-on-the-ground aspects and the sequence involving Jackal combat. I’ve got no gripes about the gameplay itself, and note that while I did have a bit of trouble starting the game (the fix was adding the entire Infinite Warfare directory into the exceptions for AVG), once things got started, it has been a solid experience. Gunplay is crisp and responsive, more so than any Call of Duty I’ve previously played, and the set pieces are appropriate. From these experiences insofar, I’m enjoying the campaign and its presentation of an interactive variant of the Mobile Suit Gundam story. There might be no Newtypes or mobile suits, but Infinite Warfare‘s first few missions give an excellent sense of what this game’s campaign is about. I am very excited to experience where things go next, and while I’ve only got a minimal interest in the multiplayer, I can say for sure that this game is not one that is deserving of the negativity and vitriol that would better be directed towards more constructive activities.

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands: A Compare and Contrast with The Division Beta

“There is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself.” —Herman Melville

It should be quite plain that Wildlands and The Division are completely different in terms of their base mechanics; The Division is an MMO-style game where loot and progression dominate gameplay, while Wildlands is intended to be a third person cooperative shooter. However, with a design far more accommodating to folks who prefer to play solo or only with a small group of friends, Wildlands initially does seem more in line with the sort of title that I might be interested in. With this in mind, however, there are some elements that are worth considering now that the Wildlands open beta has concluded: in this post, discussion will center around differences between the two games’ betas (I’ve not purchased The Division since its release). We begin with the elements that Wildlands does better than the Division, and this is the presence of random events that can make a mission unexpectedly challenging or straightforward. During the raid on a training camp, I had successfully eliminated the first of three instructors when the rebels arrived and began lighting up the place, causing Santa Blanca and UNIDAD helicopters to show up, fighting one another. In the ensuing chaos, I entered the camp’s other compound and eliminated the two remaining instructors. Previously, I had attempted an all-stealth approach but was discovered and died even after shooting down the Santa Blanca helicopters. Similarly, some of the convoy missions can become more interesting (and challenging) with the presence of traffic and UNIDAD patrols. Understanding that Wildlands is a tactical shooter, I also enjoyed the gunplay: one well-placed bullet is sufficient to down an unarmoured enemy, and even enemies with body armour do not require more than a few bullets to neutralise. Moreover, Wildlands provides an abundance of choice: after finishing the first mission, players can take on the provinces in any order of their choosing to eliminate a central member of the Santa Blanca cartel, giving a sense of freedom that stands apart compared to the more structured story missions of The Division.

While Wildlands proved to be quite entertaining, there are some aspects of The Division that are superior to those of Wildlands. The first is the user interface: The Division‘s unique, augmented-reality HUD remains one of the most innovative I’ve ever seen, projecting just enough information onto the screen to provide vital information at a glance. Seamlessly integrated into the world, it’s unobtrusive while at once being useful: two features I particularly liked were the pathfinders for highlighting a path to a destination, and the point-cloud renderings for the ECHO mechanic. The interface elements for the menus are also simple to navigate, making use of tiles to quickly show all of one’s items. Besides the amazing user interfaces, The Division also had a more intriguing premise. The fun in blowing up drug cartels notwithstanding, the idea of a bioterrorism act involving banknotes infected with smallpox cripples New York, forcing the activation of the stay-behind unit known as The Division to assist responders and investigate the cause of the disaster. It’s a terrifying thought to imagine such an event occurring, and presents a fantastic immersion into a speculative world where one has the opportunity to explore the deserted streets of New York. The Dark Zone was also an interesting component of the game, adding an additional sense of danger and uncertainty that resulted in some interesting emergent social interactions forming amongst the players. This is noticeably absent in Wildlands, which plays the much more familiar cooperative approach. Ultimately, owing to their differences, both titles do have their own merits, and so, for players like myself, the question ultimately boils down to which game is more single-player friendly.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The routine in Wildlands is a very familiar one: any point of interest is almost certainly to have a group of bad guys, patrolling, and blowing cover will make the battle substantially more difficult. This seems to be the case for stealth-driven games, where players who exercise good patience can get through areas very easily, whereas those who prefer going loud will find things a lot more tricky.

  • After arriving at the enemy encampment, a rainstorm blew in. In Wildlands, clothing can become wet when exposed to the elements and will dry out over time. In most games, dynamic wetness is usually not rendered, so players can walk through a rainstorm or wade through water, coming out as dry as before they went in. Although water-logged clothing will not slow a player’s movements down substantially as one might expect, it’s nonetheless a nice touch to the game.

  • As it turns out, one only really needs a good long-range weapon for a stealthy engagement: I managed to pick off more or less the entire camp with the M40A5 from a distance, before walking in and lighting up the mortar shell crates with my sidearm. As it turns out, my referred loadout (an assault rifle and sniper rifle) is the preferred one for stealth. There’s another that places a greater emphasis on LMGs, SMGs and shotguns, but those likely require a good team in order to be effective.

  • The mission to take out the Santa Blanca training instructors proved to be a difficult one: on my first few attempts, I set off the alarm, causing Santa Blanca helicopters to show up. On these first tries, I located a mini-gun emplacement and blasted them out of the sky, but eventually died when the UNIDAD showed up. On subsequent efforts, I decided to go with the stealth approach once more, disabling alarms, and generally being sneaky to minimise detection.

  • The later attempt proved more successful, and I managed to take out two of the three instructors before I was detected. The helicopters rolled in, as did the UNIDAD, but as these two factions began firing upon one another, I took advantage of the chaos to shoot out the last of the instructors to complete the mission. For amusement’s sake, I then found an armoured personnel carrier, sat myself in the gunner’s seat and decimated the UNIDAD helicopter before taking off for the next mission.

  • One of the more interesting gameplay mechanics that make death seem inconsequential in any Wildlands mission is that a mission will be completed whenever the goals are satisfied, independently of whether or not one makes it out alive. I remember one mission in the Itacua, I entered an encampment, took out the target and died seconds after the mission was completed, and when I respawned, the mission was complete. The implications of this are that it is possible to sneak into a heavily fortified area without dispatching anyone, take out the target or grab the intel, die and still finish the mission.

  • The mission where the goal was to search the communications outpost was an amusing one: I commandeered an APC and used it to clear most of the camp before walking in and taking the objective at a very casual pace. Close inspection of this image finds that I’m equipped with the 805 Bren A2, with a red dot sight and magnifying optics. Wildlands offers a very versatile mechanism that switches the player’s perspective from first to third person when aiming down sights; with automatic weapons, aiming over-the-shoulder is excellent, providing a greater field of vision.

  • Conversely, sniper rifles are best fired from the first person to maximise accuracy. Here, I close in on an aggregation of individuals of interest on a mission. Carelessness with the AI teammates led this mission to fail the first time I tried it, since they opened fire too early and allowed the target to escape, but I figured out that the individual of interest would try to flee in a vehicle and had prepared a pursuit vehicle.

  • I’ve never actually tried to swim across the large lake at the center of the Montuyoc province, but out of curiosity’s sake, I hopped into this smaller pool near the lake to see what would happen. The steam effects suggest that it’s a warmer pool, and some cursory searches find that there are indeed hot springs in Bolivia as a consequence of the tectonic activities that forged the Andes mountains.

  • Extracting the informant was probably one of the trickiest and most tense missions I played through: moving him a “mere” 1.4 kilometers proved to be an unexpected challenge when both the Santa Blanca and UNIDAD forces appeared with helicopters, and I had such an amount of open ground to cover. I made it by hiding behind large boulders and evading the helicopters, which eventually began attacking one another, buying me enough breathing room to reach the extraction site.

  • The last obstacle I encountered was a Santa Blanca patrol, and while some shooting with my side arm rectified that issue, my AI teammates finally caught up and provided enough covering fire, allowing me to complete this last mission. With four of five story missions completed in Montuyoc, I decided to go for some exploration and collect all of the different weapons in this region before continuing on with the final mission.

  • As heavy clouds roll over the region, I close in on the weapon case. By the end of the beta, I found all of the weapons, which include the Shorty 12G, TAR assault rifle, and two more sniper rifles, as well as the different weapons accessories. While the accessories are useful and allow one to fine-tune weapons to fit with their play-style, in general, the muzzle attachments tend to be mixed bags, reducing recoil at the expense of preventing a suppressor from being mounted.

  • The sharp-eyed reader will have noticed that my equipment was a little more diverse during the first of the Wildlands posts that I wrote, but I eventually decided to stick with one set of equipment. The options for customising one’s appearance is varied and can be used to create some interesting-looking characters, but I chose to outfit my character in a versatile manner to explore different settings without looking out of place.

  • Unlike some games out there, which suggest that less clothing confers more armour, Wildlands thankfully sticks to the realism route and ensures that players can only choose from clothing that make sense for special operations. I recall titles such as Vindictus, which I’ve only played briefly, where some of the better armour in the game does not actually involve more armour for defending against attacks, and some challenges require players to complete missions without any armour at all.

  • It’s been quite some time since I played Vindictus — if memory serves, the last time I ran it was back during 2013. Since then, my Steam library’s grown dramatically: prior to the summer of 2013, I had an older computer whose upper limits for gaming included Team Fortress 2 and Portal 2. However, after I built a new computer to replace this older system, I picked up Bad Company 2 and Crysis. From there, the number of games I could run expanded, and I’ve gone through a variety of titles over the past several years.

  • Over half of my Steam library consists of shooters (first person or third person, tactical or run-and-gun). The other games include strategy games like Sim City 4 and DEFCON, as well as some visual novels (including CLANNAD, Go! Go! Nippon! and Sakura Angel) and puzzle games. As is evidenced by this blog, I’m a huge fan of shooters: this is not unique to me, and from what I gather, the innate drive to make decisions that early humans utilised in finding food remain hardwired into our brains. These days, finding food involves sitting at an office and then earning money to hit a grocery store or restaurant, but our biological circuitry remains.

  • This evolutionary rationale would account for why first person shooters are so popular, and contrary to popular belief, they do not cause violence. Instead, I’ve found them remarkably cathartic; studies have found that populations with a proportionally large number of gamers correlated with a reduced number of violent crimes. Back in the Wildlands open beta, I’ve made it to the mine where Carl Bookhart is hiding out. There’s a sniper rifle case in this mine, the MSR, that can be picked up.

  • After reaching Bookhart, I cleared out the room with the AI teammates and shot him in the head with an assault rifle to complete the mission, unlocking the M4A1 tactical, which comes with a foregrip and optics. The illustrious weapons are fun to use, although in the beta, only assault rifles could be unlocked, and I predominantly play with the sniper rifle.

  • Here, I wrap up a side mission involving the delivery of communications parts to rebel forces, giving me a large amount of communications points. Besides communications, medical, fuel and food supplies can also be delivered. In addition, small caches are found throughout each map. Besides the skill points and levels needed to unlock skills, the skills also have a supply requirement — the side missions, although optional, contribute greatly to assisting players in unlocking new skills.

  • With all of the main missions complete, I returned to Itacua to explore and see if I could find a plane to fly, as well as locate the remaining weapon attachments and the one weapon I’d not bothered to find while I was here last while rolling through the story missions. The scenery at this rebel outpost is impressive, and I found myself staring at the water effects.

  • Here, I fire the TAR-21 assault rifle at Santa Blanca forces. A Coyote RDS is visible, and this is also one of the few images I have where I’m actively firing. The TAR-21 is the assault rifle variant of the IWI Tavor, firing 5.56 mm NATO rounds, and while it is absent in Battlefield, its smaller form, the MTAR, can be unlocked as a carbine. It’s a reasonably fun weapon to use in Battlefield, having a high rate of fire that makes it most useful for closer engagements (the recoil on the weapon is quite high).

  • I return to the UNIDAD base armed with the MSR sniper rifle, picking off sentries so that I may sneak into the facility undetected and find the weapon case, as well as the attachment. Similar to the HTI, it initially comes with a five round magazine and packs a bigger punch than the M40A5; it is effective up to 1.5 kilometers in reality.

  • The results of exploration is the unlocking of the 12G Shorty, which is the only shotgun I managed to find during the course of the Wildlands beta: this stockless shotgun is sixteen-point-five inches in length and has a capacity of two shells. Despite packing a wallop in extreme close quarters, its low capacity and short range means that the weapon was highly impractical even in close quarters, where one can run into several opponents.

  • The first time I visited the town in Itacua’s northeastern corner, I ran into a UNIDAD patrol and only just escaped. Here, I’ve commandeered a buggy armed with a minigun from the UNIDAD compound that I was exploring earlier, and if I order an assault, as I did here against Santa Blanca goons, the minigun will tear them up on short order. As far as I can tell, there aren’t any shoulder-fired anti-air or anti-tank options, although in some videos, I’ve seen folks use explosive drones to instantly destroy helicopters.

  • I’ve outfitted my assault rifles with an under-barrel grenade launcher attachment for fun: while going loud is not the smartest thing to do in most missions, with no more story missions left to complete in the beta by this point, I figured it was time to go and mess around with some of the different weapons: this grenade launcher is excellent for taking out crowds and destroying unarmoured vehicles.

  • One aspect of Wildlands that was hilarious was the fact that vehicles could automatically right themselves when flipped over, and when using the motorbike, I could hit objects at obscene speeds, and the bike would merely bounce into the air. I’ve only died once while on a vehicle, and that came from hitting another vehicle head-on in a collision because it was so tricky to steer the bike.

  • After clearing out Santa Blanca patrols, I finally come across the plane and a short landing strip. The mission: steal the plane and its supplies, then land it safely somewhere to deliver said supplies. However, immediately after takeoff, the unusable controls reared their ugly heads, and I crashed immediately, landing on the hillside. As planes require a flat surface to take off from, there was no way I would be completing this mission, so I flattened the plane with a grenade to fail the mission.

  • While I’ve not shown any instances of my usage here in this post, Wildlands does offer a night vision mode by default, excellent for those night missions where spotting enemies can be next to impossible in the darkness. I also unlocked thermal vision in the skill system, but did not play nearly enough to reach rank 14, which would allow me to unlock a special kind of suppressor that allows a weapon to deal full damage even when the suppressor is mounted.

  • After collecting a laser sight for my sidearm here, I decide to take another shot at flying. I was modestly more successful, but was shot down by anti-air missiles. Despite this, I bailed out and survived, but the plane was totalled, failing yet another mission. Side missions will become available again, so there’s no big concern for failing these, but main missions will cause the game to end if failed. Speaking of failures, I note that yesterday was the tenth anniversary to Five Centimetres per Second‘s theatrical première, but even such an occasion apparently does not merit any mention of when Your Name‘s home release will be. Toho has been remarkably secretive about things, and one wonders if it would take a Tom Clancy-style operation just to learn when the BluRay disks hit the market.

  • In the last moments in the Wildlands beta, I travelled to the southwestern corner of Montuyoc, which I’d not explored, and found a desolate, snowy mountainside that provided a beautiful view of the province. Now that both Wildlands posts are done, looking ahead into the future, I will be detailing my initial impressions of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, as well as covering the Yuyushiki and Kiniro Mosaic: Pretty Days OVAs. I remark that I also picked up Titanfall 2 during the EA Publisher Sale for sixty percent off, which means that I will be experiencing the campaign to this one, as well.

Ultimately, I think that, while I had a bit more fun with The Division‘s beta, Wildlands ended up being a bit more friendly for solo players, with its inclusion of AI teammates and vehicles. However, Wildlands does feel like a game whose value is most apparent when playing with a group of friends: I’m predominantly a solo gamer, and seeing as I never did end up purchasing The Division in spite of how enjoyable the beta was, it’s safe to say that I’m unlikely to purchase Wildlands in the future. Readers may have noticed that for Wildlands, I’ve got a bit more criticisms than I do for other games. This beta also had noticeably more issues than the previous games, ranging from the poor vehicle handling to one instance where I fell through the map. In general, I only purchase games that I am convinced that I will likely enjoy, so the chance that I’ll play through and complete a game I’m not enjoying is very small. With that being said, even if the vehicle controls are rectified by the time Wildlands launches, the game does not appear to be my cup of tea at full price; perhaps a good discount may lead me to change my mind, but with how Steam Sales and Ubisoft titles have worked, I imagine it will be quite some time before a good sale price may be found. In the meantime, it’s time for me to push forwards with Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare‘s Remastered edition.