The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: first impressions

Looking ahead to Star Wars Battlefront II and thoughts after the E3

Do it.” —Sheev Palpatine

Following the reveal of Star Wars Battlefront II footage last week, general excitement surrounding DICE’s latest Battlefront title has increased substantially. In its first trailer, Battlefront II showcased a promising new single-player campaign. From the perspective of an Imperial special forces soldier in the aftermath of the Empire’s defeat over Endor as they strive to continue serving Emperor Palpatine and execute his will against the triumphant Rebel Alliance. It’s an uncommon storyline, as most Star Wars games take place from the Rebellion’s perspective – akin to playing as the Third Reich’s Wehrmacht or Imperial Japanse Army in a World War Two shooter, Battlefront II is taking a bold new direction with its campaign, which was noticeably absent from its predecessor. Accompanying the announcement of a single player mode in Battlefront II was the fact that the game’s DLC will follow the Titanfall model: new content will be released free of charge to all players (I imagine that micro-transactions will take the forms of cosmetic items and weapon/equipment unlocks) to avoid dividing the player base (a prevalent problem in Battlefield 1, where They Shall Not Pass servers are often empty). With such a strong start, the EA Play event showcased some multiplayer footage of how the game will look and feel: the match is set in Theed of Naboo.

From the gameplay footage, Battlefront II is certain to deliver a visual and audio treat from a cinematic perspective: like its predecessor, Battlefront II has reproduced the sights and sounds expected of a Star Wars game. Whether it be the distinct report of a Clone Trooper’s blaster or the gait of a Trade Federation B1 Battle Droid, elements from the movie are faithfully portrayed in Battlefront II, along with the environments. Theed is intricate, and designs from the royal palace are incredibly detailed, from the patterns of the floor to the play of light through the building windows. The game mechanics appear to have been given an overhaul: while the UI and handling appear quite similar to those of its predecessor (weapons still overheat, while action cards determine what additional loadouts player have), the game has been modified so players gain more accuracy while firing from first person. Access to vehicles, power-ups and hero classes are now based on performance: players earn points for playing objectives and contributing to their team’s efforts, and points can be used bolster one’s class, spawn into a vehicle and, for the patient player, spawn into battle as a hero. Gone are the days of awarding players randomly the hero class: this is something that is earned, which means there will be no more need to aimlessly wander the map for the hero pickup in place of helping one’s team out. All in all, I look forwards to seeing more of the game: similar to Titanfall 2, it appears that Battlefront II has taken on a formula its predecessor implemented and improved upon it in every way.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The screenshots in this post were sourced from my time in the Battlefront trial that EA offers: a year ago, on the Friday entering the Victoria Day long weekend, I spent much of the day playing the trial to obtain a better idea of whether or not the game would be worth my while. There’s around ten seconds left in my trial, and after concluding, I switched over to writing about Gundam: The Origin‘s third episode, which had just released. While perhaps not as exciting as the years where I attended Otafest, it is nonetheless nice to have a quieter long weekend, and last year, I was gearing up for the thesis defense.

  • The screenshots I have here are of me playing through the Heroes and Villians mode against bots: my lack of time spent in the game meant that playing against human players would certainly make it difficult to obtain good screenshots, and even on higher difficulties, the heroes can cause destruction against the AI opponents without much difficulty. These screenshots have been sitting on my hard drive for the past thirteen months, but with the recent Battlefront II announcement, the time has come to put these images to good use.

  • The presence of a single player campaign in Battlefront II immediately caught my attention: I purchased Titanfall 2 for the campaign alone (albeit during a sale) and will give the multiplayer a whirl, if only to try and unlock the Tone Titan. I heard there’s a multiplayer mode against just AI opponents, so that could prove to be a nice way of becoming more familiar with the mechanics. If Battlefront II similarly features more AI multiplayer modes on top of the campaign, I could see myself getting more excited about the game.

  • The gameplay footage shown last weekend confirms that Darth Maul, Yoda and Rey will be included as heroes in Battlefront II: the heroes work similarly to how they had previously in Battlefront, able to utilise three powerful abilitie in addition to having increased damage output and resistance. One thing that could be quite nice is the ability to switch up one’s preferred hero abilities, allowing them to customise the hero to their preferences.

  • Another aspect that was not shown but would be a further incentive to buy and play Battlefront II is customisation to almost the same level as seen in Battlefield 3 or Bad Company 2 – being able to modify weapons to fit one play style would both be a powerful incentive for players to explore their options, as well as provide weapon accessories and attachments that one could work towards unlocking. Being able to really fine-tune weapons is what made Battlefield 3 and 4 such a blast: this is noticeably absent in Battlefield 1, and it is the combination of superbly-designed maps with exceptionally fun sniping that keeps me in the game.

  • Whereas my Battlefront beta discussion features posts of me operating exclusively in first person, I’ve heard that players have a much larger advantage if they play in third person owing to improved spatial awareness. In Battlefront, there was no difference in performance in first-person; players merely have a more immersive experience. In Battlefront II, playing in first person will confer superior accuracy: weapon spread will decrease. I imagine that players will remain in first person when shooting at longer ranges and switch out to third person for closer engagements as required.

  • DICE is advertising Battlefront II as a battle across different eras, and while footage of only Theed were shown, I’m hoping that classic maps (Endor, Hoth, Cloud City and Tatooine) are included along with Couruscant, Geonosis, Kamino and Mustafar. Battlefront II‘s 2005 incarnation is long held as the best Star Wars game around: its plot followed a Clone soldier in the elite 501st, and multiplayer featured full-on space combat, split into the Clone Wars and Galactic Civil War periods. If Battlefront II can include these features in conjunction with the events of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, it will be one of the biggest Star Wars games since Battlefront II (2005).

  • I am certain that the initial release of Battlefront II will not feature the same amount of content as 2005’s Battlefront II, but as DICE has promised that DLC will be free, it is very likely that the sum of DLC in conjunction with the base game will offer as much, if not more, content than Battlefront II‘s 2005 version. This is quite exciting, although there is one caveat: I imagine that the full game could very well require upwards of 100 GB of storage space.

  • One aspect that was not shown and remains unknown is the presence of full-scale space battles in Battlefront II: besides the Rogue Squadron series, Battlefront II has some of the most extensive space battles of any Star Wars game. To bring that kind of scale into the modern era with present-generation visuals would be a dream come true for many, offering immersion into the Star Wars universe hitherto unparalleled.

  • Looking back at some of the features and gameplay of Battlefront II in 2005, the game was incredibly ambitious and executed its functions quite well, being a marked improvement over its predecessor. Games during this age are characterised by exceptional sophistication far beyond what is par the course for most modern games. Deus Ex (2000) comes to mind: with a detailed combat and stealth system, as well as for placing a large emphasis on player choice, the game runs rings around modern titles despite its age. One of my friends has expressed a wish to see the game remade with modern visuals.

  • Battlefront II will retail for 80 CAD at launch, a non-trivial amount of money. Launching within a month of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, my decision to buy Battlefront II will largely be influenced by my experiences in the beta (which also allows me to know if my hardware can run it reasonably smoothly), as well as videos from my favourite YouTubers (TheRadBrad for the campaign, while LevelCap and JackFrags will guide the multiplayer). What I am looking for in the campaign is a story of reasonable length (ten to twelve hours of gameplay on standard difficulty, with eight hours being the absolute minimum) with diverse level settings and display of features in the game, including flight and space battles.

  • In the multiplayer, I will be looking for a compelling progression system so that levelling up is a journey rather than a chore, that there’s plenty to do while pursuing this journey, and that the time taken to level up is reasonably determined. Battlefield 1 is an example of reasonable levelling times: players who PTFO and contribute to their teams will earn experience reasonably quickly (even without experience boosts). Playing lots of conquest has certainly been why I’ve surpassed my Battlefield 4 level in Battlefield 1, and hopefully, levelling up in Battlefront II will both be of a reasonable rate, while at once offering players with milestones to look forwards to.

  • Assuming Battlefront II satisfies most of my personal requirements, I will be inclined to buy the game. I’m generally quite busy (as evidenced by my extreme tendency to procrastinate whenever entertainment is concerned), so scheduling is another thing on my mind: Battlefield 1 will likely still be going strong for me well into next year.

  • Depending on how things turn out, I may end up waiting for a sale to happen before buying Battlefront II: if the player base has declined too substantially, the game’s core value will lie with its single-player aspects, and a sale will probably net a better value for the game’s single-player. On a somewhat related note, I have a confession to make here: I play Call of Duty games for their campaigns alone and have not touched their multiplayer components at all.

  • This may be a Star Wars post, but I will use the remainder of the screenshots to consider Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (from here on out, Wolfenstein II for brevity), which was showcased at E3 and set to release this year, as well. Because it releases around a month before Battlefront II, and because I’ve seen games published by Bethesda Softworks go on sale as early as the first Steam sale after launch, it is possible that I could get Wolfenstein II before the year is over at a reduced price. This is how I got DOOM: it was forty percent off during the Steam 2016 Summer Sale despite having launched only a month earlier.

  • The trailer for Wolfenstein II is done in the typical Wolfenstein style, being quite entertaining to watch. Near the end, it showcases Blazkowitz dealing with American resistance members skeptical of his affiliation, and some gameplay that suggests Wolfenstein II could have a new dual-wielding system similar to that of Halo 2‘s, allowing players to pair different combinations of weapons together to wreck havoc on Nazi soldiers. Some folks have taken it upon themselves to express outrage that we’re killing Nazis in this game, but tough beans for them: this is merely a game depicting players challenging a Third Reich in power, and the option to not play the game is always on the table.

  • Chances are that I will buy Wolfenstein II during the Steam Winter 2017 sale if it is indeed discounted. Looking towards other games that caught my eye during the E3 event, Far Cry 5 is definitely on my radar for its Montana setting, and Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown looks amazing. In the latter, I cannot wait to fly the skies of Strangereal on PC for the first time. Both these games are coming out in 2018, and only time will tell as to whether or not I buy them at launch, or else wait for better prices.

  • The release of Battlefront II is set right before The Last Jedi premieres in theatres come December. Having seen the cast list and hearing news that some filming could take place in the Calgary area, in conjunction with trailers, I’m quite excited to see where the latest trilogy will go with its plot. I found The Force Awakens to really be a modernised version of A New Hope, even though the film was overall quite fun to watch.

  • In a way, I enjoyed Rogue One a bit more because it showed the story behind how the Rebels acquired the first Death Star’s plans and the origins of the thermal exhaust port weakness. Having said that, it’ll be interesting to see if the new trilogy will take things in a new direction. For now, December is still a ways off, and aside from Star Wars, there’s also Girls und Panzer: Final Chapter on the horizon. Because it is releasing in six movies, I am hoping that it will follow the Washio Sumi Chapter path and sell Blu-Rays at the theatres, otherwise, the wait to actually watch Final Chapter would be quite considerable.

  • A glance at the calendar shows that it’s been six years since I’ve qualified for my operator’s license, and five years ago, it would have been a month to the release of the K-On! Movie. Time flies, and it never fails to amaze me just how quickly a year’s passed by. With this post, I’ve finally found a use for those Battlefront trial screenshots I’ve taken last May, as well, and I will be returning to scheduled programming in the upcoming week: my plans to revisit The Garden of Words has not changed.

It has been mentioned that Battlefront II could very well suffer as Titanfall 2 did: Titanfall was an excellent game in terms of mechanics, but lacked content, leading player counts to dwindle as there was little incentive to continue playing. While Titanfall 2 surpassed Titanfall in every way, adding a campaign on top of additional content and providing free DLC, player counts remain relatively low because there is an uncertainty amongst consumers as to whether or not the game is worth it. Battlefront II might suffer a similar eventuality, but with a bold new approach to its campaign and a promise to ensure new content is available for all players, in conjunction with the Star Wars brand, it is also likely that Battlefront II will be much longer lived than the 2015 incarnation of Battlefront. My ultimate decision as to whether or not Battlefront II will be worth a purchase will be made once the game’s come out – once I’ve seen some gameplay of the campaign and learn more about the progression system and game balance, it will be easier to make a decision. An open beta could also help provide more information to determine if the game is one that will join my library. With a release date set for November 17, 2017, I look forwards to seeing more about Battlefront II, and in the meantime, it’s also time to get excited about Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. Set to release on October 27, I am almost certain I will buy the game. The only question remaining for Wolfenstein II is whether or not it will be a game worth getting at launch price (guided by the story, gameplay and replay value), or if buying the game during a sale would be a superior choice.

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.

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands: A Reflection on the Beta

“These drug cartels represent a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States.” —POTUS, Clear and Present Danger

Developed by Ubisoft Paris and announced in 2015 at the E3 event, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands is the tenth title in the Ghost Recon series. Set in the near future where the drug cartel Santa Blanca becomes the most dominant narcotic supplier in Bolivia, players will take on the role of a fictional special forces operator inserted into the nation to cripple the drug cartel, whose expanding influence begins to concern the United States government. After entering Bolivia by helicopter, the operator meets up with their CIA contact, Karen Bowman, and is given an assignment once they arrive in the Itacua province: to locate Amaru, an old man who founded the resistance group Kataris 26. Once Amaru is found, players can subsequently take on the Santa Blanca cartel in any order and manner of their choosing. Intelligence is collected to determine which locations of Itacua are worth locating — as more assignments are completed, the local commanders’ locations are revealed. In an intense firefight, both are killed, leaving me to continue the hunt in the neighbouring Montuyoc province. Standing in sharp contrast with Itacua, whose landscapes were dominated by verdant greenery, Montuyoc is an arid desert with only one large lake at its centre. Here, the enemies proved to be much more challenging, requiring more creative means to take out, but in the end, after some nine hours of time in the open beta, I finally reached the abandoned silver mine and neutralised Carl Bookhart, completing all of the eleven story missions available in the Wildands open beta.

I first heard about Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands (Wildlands for brevity in the remainder of my post) through one of my favourite YouTubers, TheRadBrad, who played through the first several missions in the Itacua province, acquired the M40A5 sniper rifle and wrapped up his mini-series of the closed beta with the mission where one must steal a sports car to acquire its GPS data from one of the local cartel lieutenants. My adventure continued on from here; I completed some side quests to gain access to support from the rebels and also managed to defeat the two bosses of the province. The beta shows that Wildlands is a beautiful game: the different provinces are fantastic places to explore, filled to the brim with details in the landscape. Dynamic weather adds variety to gameplay, prompting players to change up their tactics. While the Bolivia of Wildlands looks beautiful, the game’s narrative is not quite as captivating as that of The Division: inspired by Tom Clancy’s Clear and Present Danger, where John Clark and Domingo Chavez infiltrate Columbia on a covert operation to destroy a drug cartel, Wildlands‘ storyline is more familiar, more grounded and more derivative. Players do not feel a particular curiosity towards seeing what’s next because it’s a simple matter of killing everyone of note in the cartel. Missions very quickly settle into a formulaic process — I arrive at the location specified in the intel, send my drone up to look around, then blow some bad guys away. If all has gone well, I clear the area out and complete my mission, otherwise, the alarm goes off and things devolve into a firefight I’ll lose, since the control mechanisms in Wildlands are not quite as smooth as they should be. Even then, moving around on foot is acceptable compared to the lack of controls the vehicles offer, and the AI-controlled companions bring to mind the sort of behaviours seen in Halo: Combat Evolved whenever I tried to enter a vehicle. While the controls are tricky to master, Wildlands delivers solid gun play — weapons feel very powerful, and I absolutely enjoyed downing enemies with a well-placed headshot from my suppressed sniper rifle, or firing a quick burst from an assault rifle to dispatch even an heavily-armoured enemy.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Immediately after touching down and sneaking up a mountainous path to locate a cartel lieutenant who has information on where Amaru is, I am greeted with a plethora of vivid colours, from the deep blue sky and the greens of the jungle, to the mahogany of the muddy ground. Colours in Wildlands stand out, and is easily one of the most impressive aspect of the game. The number of vistas in Wildlands means that I could easily make this post with thirty screenshots to showcase some of the different places I visited during my trek through the beta. It doesn’t end here: this post only covers the first half of my journey, and I will be returning in the near future to discuss the second half of my journey, as well as comparing Wildlands with The Division.

  • In combat, players can choose between a traditional first-person view while aiming down sights, or switch back to the over-the-shoulder system seen in some tactical third-person shooters. For weapons with higher magnification optics (anything 4x or higher), this is the better way to play, while for weapons with red dot or iron sights, shooting with the over-the-shoulder camera perspective allows one to retain situational awareness in close quarters engagement.

  • Here, the skies are grey as clouds roll in, but later, the clouds begin dispersing. The sharp contrast between light and dark means that the clouds grow much darker while light floods in, similar to how the play of light results in very dark skies when the sun breaks through the sky in reality. In Wildlands, much of my screenshots will feature weapons equipped with suppressors: intended to be a tactical shooter, enemies will go down in only a few bullets, and while suppressed rounds are much weaker, they allow players to take out enemies without being detected.

  • The driving in Wildlands takes some getting used to: controls are very loose and imprecise, so what one initially intends to be a small adjustment in course will result in a wide, uncontrolled turn that can send the player careening off the road. This lack of control makes driving quite unenjoyable, and is compounded by the fact that the camera swings while reversing to face the back of the vehicle. I have free control of the camera while driving, so I expect to turn the camera myself if I need extra visibility in the back, rather than have the camera do it on my behalf.

  • In a small town in the north-east corner of Itacua, I encounter the UNIDAD for the first time. These private military contractors are a rogue branch of the Bolivian army in Wildlands, are denoted as purple on the map and are much tougher than the Santa Blanca enforcers, wearing heavy armour into combat and bringing superior weapons, as well. On my first encounter, I fought them and managed to elevate my patrol status to two chevrons, only just getting away when they began pursuit. Subsequently, I learned to avoid UNIDAD patrols.

  • Players start Wildlands with the P416 assault rifle (based off the Patriot Ordinance Factory P416), which has reasonable accuracy, firing rate and damage, the Heckler and Koch MP5 and the P45T pistol. All of these weapons can be outfitted with suppressors that lessen their damage but also increases one’s stealthiness. It is generally advisable to keep one’s suppressors on at all times, since enemies do not take more than a handful of hits (if unarmoured) to go down.

  • One of the earlier missions involved activating a radio transmitted and defending it from attacking Santa Blanca forces. By this point in the beta, I’ve unlocked the M40A5 sniper rifle, and despite its lower zoom optic, the weapon proved to be an indispensable asset throughout most of the game, allowing me to silently dispatch enemies without drawing attention to myself. However, there are parts of the game where it’s necessary to go loud, and here, I use a fragmentation grenade to destroy a Santa Blanca vehicle.

  • When I first heard news of the open beta and its start date, I realised that it would conflict with some of my other commitments. In order to maximise the time I could play through the beta and complete the main missions (which is my goal for any beta involving a campaign), I planned things out ahead of time so blog posts were done, and time was blocked out accordingly. By 25 Saturday, I had largely finished the first province and was getting set to visit the second — I was set to meet up with coworkers for a pizza and poker night, so a fine balance and time management allowed me to thoroughly enjoy both.

  • It’s been quite some time since I’ve made a pizza, and so, presented with the ingredients, I added different pepperonis, bell peppers, mushrooms, tomatos, jalapeño, and even shrimp to mine, on top of the default cheeses. The end result was a bit messy but turned out delicious: I dumped a generous amount of hot sauce onto my pizza and savoured it. After the pizzas were demolished, the evening turned to poker and chocolate cake: it was my first time playing Texas Hold ‘Em, and the buy-in was 20 dollars. After a few practise hands to warm up, I surprised myself with how quick it was to learn the basics, and so, we set off into the main game.

  • Some two-and-a-half hours later, the last hands were played, and I managed to break even. It’s true that poker is more about psychology than probability, and that one’s current state is by no means indicative of what the end result is: I was quite close to elimination, but two successive wins with a full house and three pairs, respectively, brought me back into the game. Back in Wildlands, I drive a truck while trying to catch up with a convoy carrying supplies. When convoys, choppers or planes are stolen and delivered, they can bring vast quantities of supplies to the rebel forces. The points one gains for doing these activities go towards unlocking skills and equipment.

  • The scenery here reminds me of the scenery I encountered when travelling in Taiwan back during 2014, and a part of me would like to return to the Eastern side of the nation to explore the Huatung Valley, a beautiful region surrounded by mountains on both sides. The majesty of this area brings to mind the sort of emotions evoked by the Titanfall 2 soundtrack, which is absolutely amazing, and at some point this year, I plan on picking up Titanfall 2 if it goes on discount, to play through the campaign.

  • Stealing El Politio’s race car was a particularly fun mission: after sneaking into the garage, I simply took the vehicle and enjoyed its performance en route to the destination.  This is the last mission that TheRadBrad played through, and so, having done both this mission and acquired the M40A5 as my second primary weapon, I’ve now gone through everything that was presented during the closed beta, which ran some three weeks ago.

  • Here, I drive into a village in a mini-bus. While the driving system in Wildlands leaves something to be desired, one feature I did enjoy is that players can command their AI squad mates to begin opening fire on enemy positions, minimising my own exposure to their fire. In this manner, I cleaned up the village on short order and began making my way to the mission objective, to free a prisoner with some intel.

  • Unlike last year, where I was working on a conference publication during The Division‘s beta, there are no academic-related tasks this year to deal with. I’ve mentioned this with some frequency, but every time I think about it, it’s always a bit of a shock to learn just how quickly time flies. It only seems like yesterday that I spent a day at the lab, working on course material before coming home to play through The Division‘s beta.

  • For much of this post, which represents the first half of my experiences within Wildlands, I ran exclusively with the P416, M40A5 and the P45T. I would on some occasions, pick up weapons taken from enemies, which allowed me to fire the M4A1, 805 Bren A2 and the 6P41 (PKP Pecheneg, for us Battlefield fans). On the whole, the other weapons proved to be fun to use, especially considering how they were equipped with the 4x optics, allowing them to be used at greater range.

  • For much of the Wildlands beta, the M40A5 suppressed was probably my favourite weapon for stealth engagements: it packs a good punch, has a good-sized magazine capacity and can be used to pick off enemies at longer ranges in a reliable manner. Here, I storm a UNIDAD facility to interrogate a commander to acquire some intelligence that sets in motion the final main mission in this province. On my first visit, I neglected to explore and did not find the weapon attachment or weapon at this site, so I returned after completing all of the missions.

  • Knowing where the province’s bosses, La Yuri and El Polito, I commandeered a helicopter and flew towards my destination as the skies began to darken. The helicopter is a good way of getting between destinations, but the controls were quite tricky to become accustomed to. However, I eventually got the hang of it and made my way to a farm house on a hill to complete the last of the missions in the Itacua province.

  • Unlike the bosses of The Division, who soak up bullets like a sponge, the bosses of Wildlands go down in a few rounds. The challenge is not gunning down the bosses, but rather, getting to them: the entire room was full of their cronies who filled the air with hot lead, and I was downed once during the fight, forcing one of the AI teammates to revive me. By the time I got back up, the AI teammates already took out one of the bosses, but I swung around and managed to get the kill myself before they could vulture my kill to end this mission and acquire two illustrious AK-47s.

  • I found a helicopter equipped with dual mini-guns and set about picking fights with the Santa Blanca helicopters in the sky, blowing one up here in a spectacular fashion. While fun to fly, aiming the primary weapons on the helicopter proved to be surprisingly tricky, and with the vehicle bobbing this way and that, it proved difficult to point the guns down towards the ground to strafe enemy positions.

  • The dynamic weather patterns in Wildlands meant that I would be able to stop and admire the sunrises and sunsets in between missions. With the major story missions of Itacua complete, I set about visiting the weapon caches to pick up new weapons. The intel to locate these spots were found by exploration, and after looking through the weapons menu, I was disappointed to learn that the Vector .45 ACP would not be available in this province to unlock.

  • While seemingly frivolous, the collectible medals offer enhancements to skills unlocked. Similar to the weapons caches, they can be unlocked by looking through intel scattered around the various settlements, and here, I find a medal near a rebel-controlled farm. More than ever, I am reminded of the mountainous regions of Eastern Taiwan, and I entertain notions of an open world game set in Taiwan during the 1940s under Japanese occupation, where players can play as the Taiwanese resistance.

  • I decided to go reach a spot to hunt down the MG121 before taking on a supply drop mission. Ideal for laying down a large amount of suppressive fire, LMGs also deal excellent damage but have a longer reload time. One of the elements in Wildlands that I initially assumed to be a bug was that picking up weapons from defeated enemies would automatically add them to my collection, and that weapons would persist after I left the game and returned.

  • Here, I fire the MG121 at enemy forces hiding behind a helicopter carrying medical supplies. Missions involving the theft of a helicopter proved to be fun and also the most straightforwards to complete, although there have been cases where one of the enemies will make a beeline for the helicopter and fly off with it: destroying the helicopter will result in the mission failing, although in the beta, the game is forgiving enough to re-issue the mission if it had been failed earlier.

  • With more or less all of the areas explored to a satisfactory extent, the time had come for me to make tracks for the Montuyoc province to continue with my journey. Having played through several time-sensitive games such as Battlefield 4 and Titanfall as a part of Origin’s GameTime programme, as well as several betas, I’ve developed a methodology to enjoy these titles as fully as possible given my limited time in playing them: for multiplayer games, I simply play as often as I can and spread my time out to experience things in the greatest breadth possible, while for games with a set of campaign, I’ll begin by completing story missions first.

  • This town here is located on a snowy cliff-side on the boarder between Itacua and Montuyoc. A far cry from the jungles and greenery of Itacua, I reached this location by means of a motorbike. Unlike World of Warcraft, the different regions smoothly transition into one another: this is stated to be the consequence of gods forging the world, and magical elements contribute to the dramatic change in terrain between the different locations: the Searing Gorge and Burning Steppes are two locations sandwiched between Dun Morogh (a snow-covered land) Elwynn Forest, a temperate, green setting.

  • After clearing out this town, I proceeded by motorcycle to the first of the checkpoints in Montuyoc. One of the fastest vehicles in the game, the motorcycle is also one of the easiest to use for the Montuyoc province, allowing players to cut across the desert plains quickly. There are large boulders strewn here and there, but those can be avoided. The main disadvantage about the motorcycle is that it only seats one. Pickup trucks and mini-buses allow players to bring their mates, but this limitation is only constrained to co-op: the AI teammates seem to be able to spawn on the player’s position after they exit the motorcycle.

  • The large lake at the center of Montuyoc reminds me of Namco Lake in Tibet; this salt lake located in the Tibetian plateau is the largest salt lake in Tibet and counted as one of the most beautiful in China, with deep blue waters beneath treeless mountains covered in snow. The weather up here is harsh and subject to frequent snowstorms, making it difficult for vegetation to take hold, and in Wildlands, one can surmise that conditions are only slightly more hospitable, as grasses can be seen in some parts of Montuyoc. I’d love to visit Namco Lake, although for the present, I’ll enjoy the fact that I got to explore a virtual version of the lake in the Wildlands beta.

  • Upon entering a new province for the first time, the first goal is to hit up locations where the intel is located, and acquire it so that the first set of story missions unlock. At these locations, there will be Santa Blanca cartel enforcers hanging around, and they must be eliminated before anything else can be done. I imagine that the same will hold true for each of the twenty-one provinces in the game.

  • All told, I’ve heard an estimate of around seven to eight hours of total time could be spent in the Wildlands beta to complete the story missions and side missions: this is more or less true, so a bit of computation suggests the final game will take roughly 73.5 to 84 hours to complete in total. Conversely, The Division clocks at at an average of 30-36 hours to complete in full. That’s a vast amount of time to be spending in one game, and to put things in perspective, I’ve got around 63 hours in Receiver, 51 hours in Skyrim, 43 in Valkyria Chronicles and 32 hours in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.

  • Here, I overlook a small settlement and the lake at the center of Montuyoc province as the sun sets. Besides playing through the Wildlands beta this weekend, I also picked up Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Legacy Edition for a third off — I discovered the deal while waiting for my appointment at the bank, and despite the overwhelmingly negative reception for the game, I have been looking to buy both games for some time. This is so I could give Infinite Warfare a shot and see if it’s as bad as people make it out to be, and to play through Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare‘s Remastered Edition. The latter is associated with my memories of the MCAT exam nearly five years ago, and it will be quite nostalgic to go through Pripyat again with the improved graphics for old times’ sake.

Having played through the game as a solo player, Wildlands beta proved to be reasonably entertaining and also showcased the scale of what Wildlands offers. However, although spectacular in the scale and details of Bolivia, as well providing a fantastic experience with respect to how the different weapons handle and perform, from my experiences with the open beta, Wildlands does not look like a game I would pick up: travelling between the different locations turned out to be a bit of a chore, and missions unwound almost with the same sequence of events each time. The combination of (albeit a very impressive and well thought-out) open world elements with a derivative narrative means that Wildlands ultimately becomes very familiar: Far Cry 4 provides a similar experience in the first person and has different nuances that encourage exploration, while Just Cause 3‘s taste for wanton destruction far outclasses that of Wildlands (it does not seem that one can destroy buildings with missiles, sustained mini-gun fire or cannon rounds). Despite the fun I’ve had in sneaking around enemy positions and a shooting everyone in the head with a suppressed sniper rifle, as well as the joy in watching shifting weather patterns, Wildlands is a game that I do not see myself considering picking up in the foreseeable future: getting around can be a bit of a challenge, and the nature of the narrative raises one additional question: what is left to do in Wildlands once the cartel is completely defeated?

Nothing Is Written: Reflections on the Battlefield 1 Campaign

“Men have looked upon the desert as barren land, the free holding of whoever chose; but in fact each hill and valley in it had a man who was its acknowledged owner and would quickly assert the right of his family or clan to it, against aggression.” —T.E. Lawrence

Bedouin rebel Zara Ghufran is working directly in the employ of legend Thomas Edward Lawrence, fighting to undermine the Ottoman Empire and their occupation of the Arabian Peninsula. Ghufran sneaks into the heavily-defended wreckage of a derailed train to retrieve a manual containing Ottoman communication protocols, and is caught by Tilkici. At the last moment, she is rescued by Lawrence, learning from Tilkici during interrogation how to summon the armoured train, the Ottoman Empire’s secret weapon. Ghufran sets out to send three messages and infiltrates Ottoman territory to do so, but before she can send the final message, she is captured again by Tilkici, who had escaped from Lawrence. Before he can execute her, she manages to kill him and returns to Lawrence; they decide to mount an assault on the armoured train. Ghufran destroys the railway to slow the train down, and together with other rebels, they manage to defeat the train in a titanic battle. In the aftermath, Lawrence has set his sights on targets in the Suez area, and feeling that Ghufran had fulfilled her revenge, invites her to participate. The last of the campaign missions in Battlefield 1, “Nothing is Written” shows daring in the face of overwhelming danger: it’s the classic David versus Goliath story as the rebels take on a seemingly invincible leviathan, and functionally, serves to show players that, while the behemoths in Battlefield 1 are titans to be reckoned with, they’re certainly not invincible — sufficient teamwork and firepower are often enough to deal with behemoths.

The final campaign mission in Battlefield 1 is perhaps the most open in terms of its gameplay, and its second act greatly resembles Battlefield: Bad Company 2‘s “Sangre del Toro” mission similarly featured three distinct waypoints to visit and gave player full choice with respect to which destination to complete first. Set in a large open area, efficient traversal becomes necessary unless one wishes to walk, and so, it becomes imperative to make good use of vehicles to get around. Both missions stand out as being set in wide expanses of desert where players are free to explore to some extent, setting the missions apart from the more linear progressions the Battlefield campaigns are wont to present. Besides bringing back memories of “Sangre del Toro”, “Nothing is Written” also gives players an incredible experience in its final act: the goal is to take out the armoured train after clearing out a village of hostile forces. While seemingly difficult to do so on account of superior enemy numbers, a suppressed bolt action rifle suddenly made the mission much more straightforwards, allowing Ghufran to silently dispatch the entire camp without being noticed. The game subsequently recommends the use of the field gun emplacements to damage the armoured train; the train’s heavy bombardment notwithstanding, I managed to disable most of its anti-personnel weapons, then ran up to the train and destroyed it using dynamite. It was a highly engaging mission that acts as an exciting end to the Battlefield 1 campaign, and with “Nothing is Written” now in the books, I will focus my attention towards the multiplayer.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • There’s a certain mystique about movies set in deserts made during the 1960s and 1970s (Lawrence of Arabia and The Spy Who Loved Me come to mind): beyond these movies, deserts also remind me of Break Blade and Sora no Woto, the latter of which was a particularly enjoyable anime that I have plans to revisit in the near future. However, this is not a reminiscence post about things like Sora no Woto and so, I’ll be going back on mission to discuss Battlefield 1‘s final mission.

  • With the expertise that DICE has gained in rendering environments like Tatooine in Star Wars: Battlefront, it is not particularly surprising that even the desolate dunes and cliffs of the Arabian desert look highly detailed. However, here, there are no Imperial Stormtroopers or AT-STs to engage: instead, Ghufran’s goal in the first act of “Nothing is Written” is to reach the marked train car.

  • Ghufran is outnumbered and out-gunned, but as Lawrence narrates, attacking as one allows for stealth to be utilised. I imagine that it is possible to complete this first section using a purely stealth driven approach, and initially, I was successful. After carefully making my way behind the train and acquiring a suppressed M1911, I carefully took out nearby soldiers. However, owing to the density of the enemies, I was eventually spotted.

  • While I was equipped with a Gewehr 98 and M911, I managed to find a Lewis gun. This made it easier to go loud, and so began a very familiar procedure of attempting to be stealthy, then having my cover blown and being forced to  shoot everything up. While the infantry are not too difficult to engage, several soldiers will make a beeline for the mounted MGs. These can lay down quite a bit of fire and damage Ghufran quickly, but dealing with them clears out the entire area, leaving Ghufran free to retrieve the code manual.

  • The multiplayer, while offering dynamic weather in its maps, do not provide night as a time of day to play under. This makes sense from a gameplay perspective: lacking FLIR and IRNV technologies means that engaging other players could prove quite chaotic. In the campaign, however, this is less of a concern and adds to the challenge of a mission. Consequently, it was quite enjoyable to fight through the night sections of the different war stories.

  • The second and third acts of “Nothing is Written” both look like they utilise a similar, if not the same, map as the multiplayer’s Sinai Desert. Games reusing assets for their single player and multiplayer components are not uncommon: 007 Nightfire is a fine example of this, where most of the maps from the campaign were modified to work as multiplayer maps. However, in the case of something like Battlefield 1, powerful engines like Frostbite mean that, by fine-tuning lighting and other subtle details, the dynamic of a map changes completely to suit the atmosphere required, whether it be a lone wolf sneaking about or a squad of soldiers fighting to control flags on the map.

  • The second act in “Nothing is Written” can be completed in six different ways, although on my playthrough, I opted to go with the one that involves the shortest distances. At the end of each campaign level, there’s a post-game report that indicates how many field manuals, challenges and difficulty points were collected, and generally, I completed the odd challenge or two for each of the acts in the campaign.

  • I may go back to play through the campaign again in the future on maximum difficulty while trying to collect everything at some point in the future, but for now, my attention rests solely on the multiplayer. In recollection, I think that I’ve said that I’d replay several games to complete their campaigns more wholly, including that of Wolfenstein: The New Order and Valkyria Chronicles.

  • It’s a full moon as I sneak around the different Ottoman-held installations; the last full moon a month ago was a supermoon, and the next full moon is a week from now. A few nights ago, I dreamt that we could see the dark side of the moon, but scientific knowledge states that it’s not likely, given that the moon is tidally locked with the Earth. That is to say that the moon’s rotational period is the same length as its orbital period; this arose owing to gravitational interactions between the moon and Earth.

  • This is the last time I will have an image of Ghufran riding a horse to move swiftly between the different outposts, and with the moon behind me, this is the darkest screenshot I’ve got for the entire post. While a little unwieldy at times, the horse is the best way of moving to destinations. Even if one loses their horse to enemy fire, there are a few saddled-up horses at each point, making transportation reasonably straightforwards. I wonder if anyone has tried to walk the distance between each of the bases.

  • I would have loved to have a proper scoped bolt action rifle, plus some explosives at the ancient ruins, since there are a handful of snipers hanging about, plus some armour. At the weapons depot and the village, any weapon will do the trick: the goal is to take out the commander and obtain a satchel from them containing the message. This is the only other place in the campaign where pigeons are used for communications, and I note that I’ve yet to play the war pigeon game mode of the multiplayer.

  • Regardless of the order that Ghufran completes the objectives in, Tilkici will appear and knock her out. She manages to kill him in the middle of the desert, but by this point, the armoured train has already begun routing allied forces. Such vehicles were not historically used by the Ottoman Empire or their allies, but Austria-Hungary, Russia and Great Britian had trains of their own: the Austrian-Hungary armed forces deployed theirs against the Italians, while the British trains saw combat at the First Battle of Ypres in 1914. Later British trains were constructed to defend Great Britian.

  • Camped out over an Ottoman outpost with a suppressed bolt action rifle, I managed to take out all of the guards without attracting any attention to myself, and dealt with the sentry using anti-tank grenades. The trick here is to take one guard out while the other isn’t looking, just as Captain MacMillian suggests to Lieutenant Price in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. A bit of patience and steady aim is the way to go for this mission, as my first attempts to go loud ended in death.

  • Here’s a curious bit of trivia concerning armoured trains: the Canadian armed forces had their own armoured train during the Second World War. Designed to defend against a possible Japanese invasion, the train, dubbed the No. 1 Armoured Train, was equipped with a 75 mm gun, two Bofors 40 mm guns, and could accommodate a full infantry company. It was deployed in 1942 and decommissioned in 1943.

  • In order to facilitate a successful assault, Ottoman artillery trucks must first be destroyed. The fastest way to do so is to acquire some dynamite, plant a charge by the vehicle and then detonate it. Doing so while under fire is ill-advised, and during my playthrough, I chose to eliminate the enemies first so that there air would not be filled with hot lead while I was trying to complete the objective.

  • Once all three vehicles are smoldering wrecks, the armoured train itself will appear. Armed with a mortar and a variety of weapons, the train is impervious to most forms of attack. There are several field guns strategically placed around the camp, and making quick tracks to the appropriate one can allow Ghufran to get off several shots before the train gets its mortar online. Each shot on normal takes away around a twelfth of the train’s health, but once fired on, the train will target the player’s current position.

  • In the chaos of battle, allied rebels will support the player, although being only equipped with small arms, they won’t be of much help against the train or Ottoman aircraft supporting the train. Once enough damage is done to the train, it becomes immobilised, and by this point, I would recommend having anti-armour equipment of some sort, since the train will have either eliminated the field guns in the right position to deal the finishing blow, or else the train is in a position not reachable by the remaining field guns.

  • The option that I took was the use of dynamite: hiding in a crater left from a mortar round, I waited for a gap in the weapons’ firing, then ran up to the train and put down the remaining dynamite I had. It was a mad scramble to get out of the blast radius, and at last, I was in a position to finish the train off. I hit the detonator…

  • …and the train detonated spectacularly. The amount of firepower the armoured train brings to the table is staggering, making this mission one of the most difficult ones to finish, but it was superbly rewarding to complete, showing that persistence and quick thinking allows for even a behemoth to be overcome. In the multiplayer, the addition of teamwork means that behemoths definitely are not overpowered, and while they can close the score gap between the losing team and winning team, by the time they appear, most folks focus on eliminating the behemoth.

  • Totalling some five-decimal-five hours, the Battlefield 1 campaign is short but immensely enjoyable. I remark that I would have liked to try Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare‘s campaign out, as well, but given that I’m unlikely to ever consider playing multiplayer in Call of Duty even if it is designed for my preferred run-and-gun style of play. There are numerous reasons for this, but that is a topic for another time. With Battlefield 1‘s campaign now complete, all I have left is Deus Ex: Mankind Divided‘s campaign to finish, and marking the first time I’ve completed not one, but three titles the year they came out. All told, 2016 has been an excellent year for games, and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to play through the biggest titles within the realm of my interests.

It took on average around an hour to play through each of the campaign missions (some missions were longer and took upwards of eighty minutes, while the shorter ones only took forty), so after around five-and-a-half hours in the campaign, I’ve finished all of the war stories that Battlefield 1 has to offer. The campaign ultimately resembles a war anthology in its presentation, showing glimpses of the battles and the characters that fought them, ranging from new soldiers to swindlers and everything in between. Overall, Battlefield 1‘s campaign aimed to show that, as per the game’s tagline, there is indeed a human being behind every weapon and bullet in warfare, and that everyone who fought in the Great War had their own stories to tell. With an estimated 17.7 million casualties, the number of dead or wounded was staggering, resulting in the loss of a whole generation: the impact the Great War had on the period was immense, and reshaped the world. Battlefield 1‘s campaign, though a fictional representation of this war, nonetheless succeeds in suggesting that the human cost of warfare in general is unacceptably high. It marks a departure from previous Battlefield games, which were purely for entertainment, and in choosing to step in this direction, DICE manages to paint a compelling perspective of the dawn of contemporary warfare.

The Runner: Reflections on the Battlefield 1 Campaign

“Age is no guarantee of efficiency.”
“And youth is no guarantee of innovation.”
—Q and James Bond, Skyfall

Veteran message runner Frederick Bishop encounters Jack Foster, who claims he is Bishop’s new charge. Despite his initial doubts about Foster’s capabilities, he consents to mentor Foster on the condition that Foster does not participate in any active combat. The fifth mission begins with Bishop storming the beaches in the Gallipoli Campaign and capturing a strategic location on the hill, and the next day, Bishop volunteers to run a message in Foster’s place, learning that the British forces intend to retreat under heavy artillery fire. After returning to their headquarters, Bishop learns that Foster has participated in an attack against Ottoman forces and sets out to retrieve him. Upon finding Foster, Bishop decides to cover his and the wounded’s escape by storming a fortress; Bishop orders Foster to fire a flare to signal when they’ve suceeded in escaping. While Bishop’s one-man operation is successful, he is wounded and fails to escape the British artillery, losing his life in the process. Perhaps the greatest Ottoman campaign of the Great War, it resulted in the Allied forces withdrawing and led to the Turkish War of Independence, resulting in the birth of the modern nation of Turkey. It’s a chapter in World War One’s history that I’m not too familiar with, although like the other campaigns far removed from the Western Front, these battles had a major impact in shaping the world during the Inter-War period.

The message conveyed in Battlefield 1‘s fifth campaign mission is the idea that life and death on the battlefield occurs independently of experience and skill. Joining with the intent of experiencing glory, Foster soon learns that death is indiscriminate; the difference between him and Bishop is that the latter is well aware of this and has accepted this, whereas Foster is green and thus, grows fearful in the face of death. In their short time as mentor and student, Bishop instructs Foster in fundamentals, passing along his knowledge. As a result, Foster is able to rescue Bishop during a tense moment during the campaign, but ultimately, in spite of his own experience, Bishop is not able to survive the battle. This harsh reality is thus driven home by “The Runner” to reiterate that many men, both experienced and inexperienced, were at the mercy of events around them, bringing to light yet another darker side of conflict that far eclipses the prospect of glory. By the time of the Great War, innovations in weapons meant that there was no glory, just death. The ensuing casualty numbers were a sobering reminder of how technology allowed for more efficient slaughter of fellow humans compared to past wars, and this resulted in the First World War being dubbed “The War To End All Wars”; in retrospect, there is a degree of irony in this moniker, since World War Two became an even more widespread and devastating conflict a mere two decades later.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • “The Runner” is broken up into three acts, with the first involving a Normandy-style landing of the beaches by British forces. The invasion of Gallipoli marked the first operation that would shape later amphibious landings: such campaigns opened with sustained artillery bombardment from naval vessels, followed by the deployment of soldiers to capture and secure coastal regions, paving the way for a much larger force to be deployed.

  • As the first example of a modern amphibious landing, the Gallipoli operation involved both air and naval support. Inside the confusion, Bishop must make his way up the cliffs and capture a point. There’s a combination of close quarters and distance combat, and initially, Bishop is armed with a SMLE MKIII optical for longer range engagements. A Model 10-A is available for dealing with infantry at close quarters. Here, I use a rifle grenade to neutralise a machine gunner.

  • The Ottoman soldiers man machine guns and can be a bit bothersome to deal with, since they have implausibly good accuracy. I found that hiding in the bushes and carefully lining up a shot to pick them off is probably the best option: anything else, and Bishop will be shredded. Once all opponents are dispatched, there are no more threats, allowing Bishop to move forwards towards the capture point.

  • The Model 10-A becomes an invaluable asset, as it can one-shot anything that moves in close quarters, making it best suited for handling opponents on the capture point. However, for the occasional enemy one encounters en route to the capture point, the Model 10-A can also be relied upon in a pinch. It’s said to be the best shotgun in the multiplayer, and so far, I’ve been using it extensively in TDM for the assault class.

  • One of my readers remark that the M1903 Experimental is probably the best weapon for scouts who prefer playing in closer quarters: equipped with the Pederson Device, which replaces the bolt and allows the weapon to fire .30 caliber pistol rounds. Dealing significantly less damage than bolt-action rifles, the Pederson Device equipped M1903 has a much higher firing rate and less recoil, transforming the weapon into what is essentially a long-barreled pistol.

  • If I do pick up the scout class (which will come the day I want to unlock the Kolibri pistol), I imagine that I’ll probably be better served getting good with any one of the bolt-action rifles and sticking to it, while playing rush or other game modes where opponents are less likely to sneak up on me: I heard that the M1903 experimental’s pitiful damage means that some sidearms, like the Frommer Stop, can out-perform it at close quarters, and moreover, one would likely get Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from using the weapon too much. Foliage in Battlefield 1 is on par with that of Crysis 3 in terms of detail and density, but I’m getting much better frame rates in Battlefield 1 than I did with Crysis 3.

  • In the campaign, on normal difficulty, body shots with the bolt-action rifles seem to be a one hit kill. Having a bolt-action rifle confers the most authentic World War One experience in Battlefield 1 compared with the other prototype automatic weapons; it would be quite nice if there were dedicated game modes for reproducing the sort of warfare seen in the Western Front, where each class can only equip bolt-action rifles.

  • There would have to be an all-class bolt-action rifle for such a game mode, and that could get interesting with respect to balance. Back in the campaign, the details in the bathhouse are intricate, and I found myself admiring the little details inside. The full Turkish bath experience is an intricate one that became popular in Victorian England: it involves hanging out in a warm room, moving on into a hot room, followed by a full-body wash, massage and cooling off in a cool room.

  • I frequently mention this, but it never fails to amaze me how quickly time’s flown by: it’s now December, and we’ve put up our Christmas decorations in preparation for this year’s festivities. This year, we’ve had a heavy snowfall on the day the tree went up, and while it’s made driving to the dōjō to help out with a kata tournament that much more tricky, it also means that the landscape’s become a winter wonderland.

  • After spending most of the level with the Gewehr 98 Infantry, I find a sniper variant that comes with a high magnification scope for long range shooting. With clean crosshairs and a smaller housing than the marksman, it’s probably the best version of the Gewehr 98. One of the challenges about picking which weapon to purchase in the multiplayer with war bonds would be knowing which weapon variant has which optics: I’m generally not a fan of the marksman optics on the bolt action rifles owing to their larger, more obstructive housing, but they do not cause scope glint.

  • I’m actually not too fond of running the cavalry class in the multiplayer of Battlefield 1, since their horses seem a little more unwieldy than other vehicles. Programmed with a decision tree that allow them to perform basic terrain negotiation, as well as jumping over short obstructions and refusing to move off cliff faces and into deep water, horses are rather more complex than any vehicle in earlier Battlefield games. In the fifth campaign mission, horses are an excellent way to returning to distantly-spaced objectives.

  • The final act of “The Runner” also happens to be the most combat driven, and now, starting with the Gewehr 98 Sniper, plus the Model 10-A, I’m ready to storm the fortress as a one-man army. Stealth hardly matters here, and I chose to shoot anything that moved. With that being said, it is quite possible to take a stealth approach and sneak past all the enemy forces, but now that I’m armed with cool guns, it would seem a waste not to use them.

  • Compared to the more vivid colours seen in older Battlefield titles, the saturation in Battlefield 1 is a bit more restrained. The end result of this is that enemies in both the campaign and multiplayer become a little more tricky to spot, but otherwise, serves to elevate the photorealistic quality of the graphics in the game.

  • According to the in-game documentation for the Model 10-A shotgun, the German forces protested their use as being inhumane despite making use of chemical weapons during the war themselves. In a bit of irony, players themselves have remarked on how powerful the Model 10-A is in the multiplayer: it is the perfect weapon for close quarters maps, and can down some enemies even at moderate ranges.

  • Armed with two kickass weapons, I ascent to the fortress gates and prepare for the largest battle seen yet in this war story. I remark that as of now, I’ve yet to hear anything about Kimi No Na Wa with respect to its home release. Anime News Network only discloses the box office totals for the movie, and there’s been a great deal of commotion about how the movie was selected for an Academy Awards nomination.

  • While exciting news, my main interest is on when the movie is able to come out on Blu Ray: I was able to watch it under some interesting circumstances, but it would be nice to have a copy of my own at a fantastic resolution such that I can do a proper discussion of the movie. I imagine that there’s a six-month gap between the theatrical release and home release: Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below, Shinkai’s last work, released with a similar pattern and despite being a fantastic work, garnered none of the excitement of Kimi No Na Wa.

  • On that note, I’ve also been keeping an eye on Kiniro Mosaic: Pretty Days — it’s a special OVA dealing with the cultural festival, and strangely enough, was a theatrical release despite its short runtime of a single episode spanning thirty minutes. Most OVAs tend to see theatrical releases if there are multiple episodes (Strike Witches: Operation Victory Arrow and Tamayura: Graduation Photo come to mind as examples): I imagine that there could be a three-month wait for this one to be available, and a special for Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka??, unconfirmed for release somewhere in March-April 2017, might see a similar pattern.

  • Back in Battlefield 1, I’ve finally gotten to the last part of the last act and have cleared out the courtyard of most enemies. By this point, I’ve largely exhausted the Gewehr 98’s ammunition and was made to switch to a Cei Rigotti optical in one of the nearby weapon crates.

  • Clearing out the courtyard was made challenging by the fact that flame troopers will appear. Shooting them in their fuel tanks will do the most damage, although when things get hectic, I usually just unload an entire magazine into them after stopping, dropping and rolling to minimise or avoid fire damage. I’ve heard that elsewhere on the ‘net, folks are in the midst of yet another difficult Kantai Collection seasonal event, and going from their remarks, I am glad not to be them, where instead of players going “[name of ship] GET!”, they’re getting rekt, instead.

  • This is one of the reasons why I prefer playing shooters. They don’t require quite as much of an investment for casual folks like myself, and can be quite fun when one pulls off ridiculously cool stunts in either a campaign or multiplayer. For this last figure, it turns out that there’s also a 12G shotgun lying around here, but because I found it after clearing the area, I never made use of it. This brings the fifth mission’s discussion to a conclusion, and I’ll be returning soon to conclude my thoughts on the Battlefield 1 campaign. After that, it’s onwards to the multiplayer and my impressions of it, having reached rank 14 since I started playing it back in late October.

I’m now down to the last mission in Battlefield 1; the campaign has definitely felt like reading a war anthology relating different snippets and accounts of the different personae in World War One. Based wholly around infantry combat, “The Runner” comes across as being a run-of-the-mill mission in comparison to earlier missions in Battlefield 1, but nonetheless remains quite distinct and memorable in its own right for the dynamics between Bishop and Foster. This mission also marks the first time where I’ve been able to find a bolt-action rifle with mounted optics: earlier weapons only had iron sights, and while I’m growing accustomed to using iron sights for the multiplayer, it is such a nice bonus to have access to optics for longer-range engagements. The bottom line here is that exploring a level and hunting down weapon crates can give players access to more effective weapons beyond those wielded by enemy forces, and while I’ve been nominally exploring the campaign missions, I’ve not made a full effort to track down all of the field guides, or complete all the challenges in each mission. I might go back at some point in the future to complete all of these objectives, but for now, one last mission in the campaign awaits, and then it’s time to wrap up Deus Ex: Mankind Divided  to see where Adam Jensen’s story takes him.