The Infinite Zenith

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Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare- Review and Impressions ¾ Mark

“He’s one of us! Ethan! What’s the Navy’s official policy for a gunfight?”
“Send in the Marines!”

–Staff Sergeant Usef Omar and ETH.3n

Reyes is recovered by the Tigris and returns to the Retribution, mopping up SDF operations over the dwarf planet Pluto and restores control of a salvage site to SATO, returns to Titan to decimate SDF vessels while they are refueling and proceeds to intercept a chemical weapons vessel in orbit over Venus. Subsequently, Reyes receives word that there is a disturbance at a SATO facility in an asteroid mining station near Mercury. Fighting both hostile robots and extremities of temperatures, Reyes and his team narrowly miss incineration and only just escape the facility, although Staff Sergeant Omar dies when Salter takes off early before their window to evacuate closes. Upon returning to the Retribution, Reyes and the others learn that this operation had been a diversion: the SDF destroy the Tigris, leaving no survivors. Reyes later devises a plan involving the beacon that Riah is carrying; this is a signal that will prompt a full SDF invasion, and in theory, cutting off the beacon will lead the SDF to assume the time is appropriate for a full-scale assault. Before returning to Earth, Reyes engages a remaining SDF operation in orbit around the sun, where the blistering temperatures only confers his Jackals limited time before they malfunction. Completing this task, the Retribution’s crew gear up for a final shot at the SDF fleet and recovering control of the solar system. This is where I am in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare after some eleven hours of play – with all of the side missions complete, I turn my attention towards the final two missions left in this game.

While very much a corridor shooter in the vein of its predecessors, Infinite Warfare provides a very uncommon approach towards its gameplay – the side missions have proven to be quite enjoyable despite their similarities with one another. This is not too surprising, as the side missions come in two varieties: Jackal strike missions are purely space combat driven, involving dogfights and attacks on SDF vessels, while infiltration missions involve boarding SDF vessels to recover high value articles or carrying out acts of sabotage. While these missions play identically, they offer additional insights into the SDF, which is by this point, very nearly comical in its portrayal. A militaristic, totalitarian regime, one must wonder if Infinite Warfare is willfully presenting a satire of such governments, indirectly mocking both Gundam‘s Principality of Zeon and Aldnoah.Zero‘s VERS Empire for their methods and principles. Developing secret weapons stolen from SATO and resorting to WMD, the SDF are unquestionably appalling, an entity that is very difficult to garner sympathy for: this makes it easy to provide a backdrop and justification for the diverse locations seen in Infinite Warfare. While the narrative might be quite thin on closer inspection, it is successful in giving players a chance to experience combat operations set in different locations around the Solar System, and while there is a degree of repetitiveness in the side missions, they are intended to supplement the relatively small number of main missions, which are rather more diverse in terms of design and atmosphere.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • In 2006, the IAU formalised its definition of a planet after the discovery of several objects in the Kepler Belt with similar masses to Pluto: it has since been re-designated a dwarf planet, although scientists are still in debate as to whether or not the new IAU definition is satisfactory. The definition is seen as pure matter of semantics, and under the IAU terms, Earth would not qualify as a planet for having failed to “cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit”, which is given as becoming a gravitationally dominant entity in its area, although this is loosely defined and consequently, is considered inadequate a criteria.

  • In Rick and Morty, Jerry Smith argues that “If [Pluto] can be a planet, it can be a planet again”. It’s not quite as eloquent as a formal argument, and from a personal perspective, I argue that the third criteria is indeed open to semantics: in a hypothetical young star system with several gas giants several times the mass and radius of Earth, these would not be considered planets if they are surrounded by a debris field under the “cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit” constraint. This makes very little sense, and the suggested, simpler definition encompasses two criteria, which makes rather more sense: a planet should be a sufficiently large body orbiting the sun that is of a sufficient size to maintain a spherical structure, and where the size exceeds a certain threshold (e.g. a diameter of 2000 kilometers or greater). Any smaller object with a spherical shape is then counted as a dwarf planet.

  • The object of one of the boarding missions around Pluto is to infiltrate an SDF vessel and execute high value targets belonging to the SDF command: crippling their leadership will weaken their ability to strike the SATO forces. Donning a SDF uniform and equipment, Reyes manages to sneak through the vessel undetected and deactivates the life support system, leading to near total casualties.

  • I’ve now said two controversial things in this Infinite Warfare post, and while I do wonder what readers think of these topics (both of my perspective on Zeon and Pluto’s state as dwarf planet), I note that this is a gaming post intended to detail my run through a futuristic first person shooter. Hence, comments that deviate too greatly from the scope of discussion will likely not be answered in full because a proper response will be quite wordy. Returning back to Infinite Warfare, here, I participate in a mission to engage and destroy SDF fighters, as well as vessels, in a salvage yard over Pluto.

  • Very much cut and dried, the Jackal strike missions turned out to be quite enjoyable despite being repetitive owing to the different locales they are set above. By this point in the game, I’ve become very comfortable with the handling of a Jackal, which is unlike the jets of Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4 and Ace Combat. In fact, the controls are more similar to the Banshee of Halo and Halo 2. As well, I’ve unlocked all of the weapons and specialisations for the Jackal. I usually sortie with the default loadout, which offers a nice balance between firepower and firing rate.

  • The skies of Titan are moodier as I return to wreck havoc on the SDF A-Jak Cutters, smaller warships with vulnerable panels near their engines that can be destroyed quickly, dealing massive damage to the Cutter. The larger destroyers take a much longer period to engage: my preferred strategy is to hit it from the sides and rear, eliminating the cannons and missiles as required. After sustaining enough damage, the destroyers will explode spectacularly, although I do find it interesting that a single Jackal can do that much damage to an entire destroyer.

  • Flying above Venus’s noxious atmosphere of sulfuric acid and carbon dioxide in this mission, Reyes and the Retribution prepare to board the Hellas, which is suspected to be housing chemical weapons. That there is no “boots-on-the-ground” mission on Venus makes sense: despite being considered Earth’s sister planet, the surface is shrouded in a heavy atmosphere that exerts ninety-four times the pressure relative to Earth’s. Simply, explorers on the surface would be exposed to an unpleasant combination of extreme heat caused by the runaway greenhouse effect and corrosive elements that, in conjunction with the pressure, would make combat and movement near-impossible. Conversely, telemetry has found that the upper atmosphere, some sixty kilometers above the surface, has a similar composition to Earth’s atmosphere.

  • It is up here that the events of Operation D-CON are set. I start with the recommended loadout of a Mauler LMG and Reaver shotgun, both projectile weapons. Having an LMG is useful for situations where there is a large number of enemies, while the shotgun is well-suited for the tighter corridors of the SDF destroyer. It’s business as usual, then: make one’s way to a part of the warship, do something and then get out. While the side missions are unremarkable from a gameplay perspective, they provide additional information on the war between the UNSA and SDF, as well as unlocking attachments and upgrades for players.

  • The side missions also reuse a great many assets: it’s actually quite convenient, since the SDF warships likely have a standardised interior, it should be no surprise that all of the warships look the same from the inside. Here, I have swapped over to the Reaver for close-quarters combat, and note that the weapons of Infinite Warfare‘s campaign can be customised to an incredible extent: while there is a default recommended loadout, players can set up their initial loadout to be anything they wish (even spawning into a mission with the F-SpAr torch if they so wished). By default, the Reaver of Operation D-CON is equipped with smart shot that guides the pellets along their trajectories to an extent.

  • After reaching the weapons room, it’s a matter of clearing out the SDF, waiting for a proximity hack to complete and holding off attacking SDF while the hack is progressing. The LMG becomes useful here, and after the weapon is acquired, it’s time to get out. That the SDF are willing to resort to chemical weapons is indicative of their extremism, bringing to mind Zeon, who similarly used chemical weapons to completely depopulate a colony cylinder before attempting to drop it on Jaburo base during Mobile Suit Gundam‘s Operation British.

  • With the side missions largely finished save for one, I resume the main campaign and set out for an asteroid base Vesta 3 orbiting Mercury; by the time Reyes arrives to investigate the site for any survivors, its orbit has destablised, and the asteroid itself is rotating erratically as a result of the SDF Olympus Mons having fired on the asteriod: day and night cycles are minutes in length, with blistering heat by day that makes movement particularly hazardous. It’s a fantastic set-piece mission, and players can only move in shadows or during the dark.

  • The interior of the Vesta 3 base is eerily quiet, bringing to mind the sort of environments I saw in Alien Isolation. I began Alien Isolation nearly a year ago, a few days into June after delivering my department seminar presentation in preparation for the thesis defense. By this point, my paper was largely finished, and I had picked up Alien Isolation on a fantastic sale that saw the game go for 75 percent off. It was quite unlike anything I’d experienced before and also a highly enjoyable one, save the mission in the reactor core.

  • It took me a week to summon up the courage to attempt the reactor basement mission in Alien Isolation, and by the time I finsihed the game, it was late August. Returning to Infinite Warfare, I continue making my way through the base here, which as thus far been devoid of any human opponents. In the quiet, I shop to look around the level’s designs and notice that, like Titanfall 2, one can find hanzi (Chinese characters) in some parts of the settings that players go through. I’ve not read or written much Chinese as of late, so my recognition of more complex characters has decayed over the past several years.

  • It turns out that the deaths at the facility were caused by the SDF hacking into the security robots and having them kill off the station’s inhabitants. These robots are now hostile to all humans and will kill them on sight, hence the wisdom of having good energy weapons: they are particularly effective, in conjunction with shock grenades, against robots.

  • Once the sunlight has passed and gives way to darkness, it’s time to move on to the next area. During one transition, the sun re-appears and begins burning Reyes – flames can be seen burning on the surface his suit, only to extinguish themselves as Reyes returns to cover. I’m not actually sure how this would work, since fires are the result of a fuel source undergoing combustion, but in the moment, this was the last thing on my mind: the only goal was to get to some cover. When the door is reached, a horde of robots appear, and Reyes must fight them off while the proximity hack is executing.

  • I manage to find an F-SpAr torch at the base, and decided to save it, feeling that it would come in handy later on. While the casualties are extensive, Reyes and his team manage to save some of the miners. In news quite unrelated to Infinite Warfare, first person shooters and games in general, the owner of the file sharing site, nyaa.se, scuttled the site out of concern that the EU’s new anti-piracy laws could land them in legal trouble. It’s been one of the bigger events in the anime community, and while my opinions on internet privacy and information sharing are my own, these events is an ominous indicator of the decline of freedom in electronic communications in the near future.

  • The deletion of nyaa.se and its associated domains leaves viewers of anime unable to acquire older shows, OVAs or movies effectively. One may then wonder if this would affect this blog in any way, and the answer to this is that I largely remain unaffected by this news – my discussions for anime series, OVAs and movies should still come out as scheduled. The next anime post will be Hai-Furi‘s second OVA, continuing with Kōko Nosa’s experiences as she struggles to deal with news that the Harekaze will be scrapped, and this is coming out near May 24. Back in Infinite Warfare, I make my way through the asteriod’s molten interior in a perilous catwalk, and here, I wield a Volk that I found.

  • A veritable army of robots awaits Reyes and the others at the extraction point. The wisdom of having held onto the F-SpAr comes into play here, and it is an indispensable asset that, when used in conjunction with the shock grenades, allows players to clear out the area quickly. The Volk is a modestly effective fall-back weapon, but its slower firing rate made its use a bit of a challenge. After eliminating the robots, Salter lands, but the heat forces her to take off, leading Staff Sergeant Omar to die in the process. I was sad to see him go, especially after seeing him warm up to Ethan. After a heated discussion on the Retribution’s bridge, the officers decide that they must now prepare to deal a death blow to the SDF by luring them into a trap. Before this can happen, there is one final side mission to complete.

  • The final side mission unlocked is a timed mission close to the sun – prolonged exposure to the extreme temperatures (exceeding 700ºC) will damage the Jackal’s components, so Reyes only has six minutes (on standard difficulty) to clear out the SDF forces guarding vital resources belonging to the UNSA. It’s a spectacular mission, although eliminating all of the SDF Skelters and Ace pilots can be a little tricky.

  • In the end, I finished the mission with around twenty seconds to spare, having spent most of my time trying to find the Ace pilots. This brings my Infinite Warfare post to a conclusion, and I note that the reason why I am suspending my writing for the next two weeks is because I am set to go on vacation quite soon. This is why the next major post dealing with anime will be the Hai-Furi OVA, and in the meantime, I will need to get to packing and carrying out preparations for this trip. I will return after my trip, before the month ends, to wrap up my thoughts on Infinite Warfare, and depending on how scheduling works, I might also do a post on the upcoming movie Koe no Katachi before May draws to a close.

The topic of Zeon brings to mind a conversation I’ve shared with a friend about Mobile Suit Gundam: despite being intended to fulfill a similar role in Gundam as the SDF do in Infinite Warfare, there are some individuals who believe that Zeon’s cause is just in spite of all of their atrocities. Their argument is that Zeon was born of noble origins, even if their methods are disagreeable. My friend thus argues that this support is to suggest a deep-seated belief within these individuals that power should be concentrated in the hands of the few, that might is right. Inspection of Gundam finds that Zeon is generally dealt the short stick: its leadership consists of fanatical bigots who view the citizenry as disposable, a means to an end, and while the citizens might be people with their own stories, the leaders of Zeon certainly are intended to be viewed as no different than history’s most infamous despots. This is meant to challenge black and white viewpoints of warfare, and consequently, the extremities in Infinite Warfare might be intended to satirise these figures, fictional and real, as well as make it clear that the SDF are antagonists, not to be sympathised with, but a force threatening freedom and liberty. It certainly simplifies the amount of discussion that can be had about the nature of warfare from Infinite Warfare, but also drives home a different theme that will become apparent as Infinite Warfare enters its final chapter.

Titanfall 2: Campaign Final Impressions and Reflections

“Protect the Pilot.” —BT-7274

Taking into the skies after the Draconis, Milita forces pursue the Ark weapon, but find themselves hampered by Viper, a mercenary. Cooper manages to take control of an IMC vessel, disable its guns and defeats Viper before pressing on to the Draconis. BT sustains heavy damage and surrenders the Ark to Blisk, before being destroyed by Sloane. In his final moments, BT gives Cooper the SERE Kit containing the MK-5 Smart Pistol, a knife and his own computer core. Cooper makes his way to a drop point, where he is provided with a new Vanguard chassis equipped with the Legion setup. Reunited with BT, the pair fight their way through the IMC forces and reach the Ark. In the process, Sloane is defeated, and Blisk complements Cooper on his resilience, remarking that strictly speaking, the Apex Predator’s contract never extended to taking Cooper out. He leaves Cooper with his business card before leaving. BT flies himself into the Ark’s core and ejects Cooper at the last moment, citing his third protocol. The Ark Weapon is destroyed and destabilises Typhon: reaching the extraction point, Cooper escapes Typhon before the planet is annihilated. In the aftermath, Cooper is formally admitted as a Titan pilot into the Marauder Corps, and it appears that BT’s AI has survived, running from within Cooper’s helmet. This brings Titanfall 2‘s campaign to an end; despite its short length, Titanfall 2 managed to create a compelling narrative for the world of Titanfall: the most distinct feature about the campaign in this title, besides the fact that there was a campaign to begin with, is that no two missions were similar.

In Titanfall 2‘s campaign, the central theme is about trust: despite BT and Cooper being unfamiliar with one another, the journeys and experiences they share to uphold Lastimosa’s mission allows the two to develop a strong bond with one another, to the extent where Cooper is comfortable with entrusting his life to BT during challenging situations. This bond between man and machine is what allows a pilot to be such an effective force on the battlefield. When Titanfall 2 first opens, Cooper narrates the incredibly powerful presence a pilot has on the battlefield: this power is almost supernatural, at least until players see, from Cooper’s perspective, what a pilot and Titan pair are capable of after they’ve become attuned to one another. Central to this syngery is trust: a pilot must trust their Titan to assist them with difficult choices, and Titans likewise will look after their pilots, giving them a very human-like nature. In its narrative, Titanfall 2 also suggests at the extent and scale that the IMC-militia conflict has been occurring, indicating that this is a universe with its won stories to explore. With nine distinct missions, Titanfall 2‘s campaign was a breath of fresh air, combining smooth platforming with shooting and mechanised combat through the Titans. Superbly fun and presenting the Militia as a sympathetic cause, it was very pleasant to play from the perspective of the resistance group, allowing Titanfall 2 to contrast Infinite Warfare, where players assume the role of a government military force working against insurgents. The different perspectives often serve to remind players that conflicts are fought not without reason, and it is such an interesting juxtaposition to go through both games.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The penultimate mission is one of the most visually impressive of Titanfall 2: set over the mountains and forests of Typhon, the goal is to reach the Draconis and stop it from delivering the Ark to the Fold Weapon. Undaunted by the fact that the Draconis has taken off, Militia forces manage to seize another IMC vessel and take off. Despite some of the jumps over the valley below being quite terrifying, these are scripted events that have a known outcome. Once Cooper is tossed to a nearby IMC vessel, his job is to stop its guns and create a space for Militia forces to catch up.

  • The abundance of weapons and ammunition here means that there’s really no concern for running dry mid-battle. The close quarters engagements and large number of enemies meant that I would personally find a shotgun and LMG to be well-suited for the firefights ahead, although an assault rifle is also useful for taking out enemies at range. The weapons diversity in Titanfall 2‘s campaign is impressive, although there are some weapons that I gravitate towards more than the others.

  • Immensely fun, one of the only gripes I have about Trial By Fire is that Cooper cannot take control of the large guns on the IMC vessel’s flank side. Strictly speaking, there’s no reason to actually use them, since it’s Militia forces in the air. Disabling the guns is a reasonably simple task: the weapons are controlled by an IMC soldier, and they can be disposed of very quickly. Once the guns stop firing, Militia pilots will board to assist Cooper with taking control of the vessel.

  • In one of the more cinematic moments in Titanfall 2, a Militia vessel flies close to the IMC ship, providing an impromptu wall that allows the pilots to wall run across to the main hanger leading to the bridge. This jump requires coordination and timing to complete: it took me several attempts to actually make it because I kept doing the double jump too early after leaving the Militia vessel, failing to land. On successful landing, it’s directly into a heavy firefight with the IMC soldiers and robots.

  • The wisdom of having an LMG is useful, as is making use of the cloak to conceal myself from enemies. One of the things about this mission that strikes me as impressive is how the sense of travelling through one of Typhon is captured: even though the ground is shifting continuously, players won’t actually reach the Ark and can take the time they need to clear areas out. If I had to guess, I would imagine that the terrain below is moved around the vessel and is procedurally generated, only generating certain assets once checkpoints in-game are reached.

  • Some IMC soldiers encountered throughout Titanfall 2 are equipped with shields that can absorb a considerable amount of damage, and while they can be bested with the traditional “shoot until they die” methodology, but the more effective means of dealing with them is to engage the cloak, sneak behind them and fire, or else drop some explosives behind them to quickly deal with them. Yesterday’s post on Your Name‘s home release came out of the blue, but this one does not. Now that there’s a release date, I begin counting down the days to when I can finally roll out my talk on Your Name, but with a shade less than three months to go, there’s quite a bit to do in the interim with respect to games and other modes of recreation.

  • This is because over the past weekend, I developed a minor cold and spent most of yesterday sleeping it off: this cold signals that warmer weather is returning soon, and I look forwards to being able to walk around without the need for a heavy coat and scarf. We return to Titanfall 2, where I found that the graphics, while perhaps not quite as exceptional of those seen in Battlefield 1 or Crysis 3, nonetheless remain highly impressive. In spite of all of the things that Titanfall 2 has going for it, however, I’ve heard that the playerbase is not particularly large, even though the game’s initial sales figures were quite good, and Titanfall 2 does everything from Titanfall better, including addition of a fantastic campaign.

  • Up until now, there’s been little use for the MGL, but I figured that with the game drawing to a close, the time was ripe for me to give the weapon a shot. This is an anti-Titan weapon, but there aren’t very many moments in the campaign where Cooper will face Titans while on foot. These weapons thus become extra-powerful options for taking out infantry, and here, I unload grenades into the bridge of the IMC vessel to commandeer it.

  • Cooper will then take control of the IMC vessel and position it so that it is directly behind the Draconis, with the aim of boarding it mid-air. Cooper uses a data knife to  override the controls and maneouver the vessel: this tool is not actually a melee weapon and is intended to be placed into a slot in an enemy Spectre or turret. When a hack is complete, the enemy unit will fight for the player. Closer inspection of the data knife finds that it resembles a lightsabre handle in design. After what seems to be an eternity, Cooper is finally in position and heads out onto the deck. However, it’s not a simple walk in the park: the Mercenary Viper shows up in a Northstar-class Titan.

  • Viper is one of the trickier bosses in the campaign: his Northstar has nearly unlimited flight core duration, and he earlier shoots down half of the attacking Militia forces on his own. Owing to Viper’s mobility, the Expedition loadout or Tone loadout are the best choices for taking him on: lock-on missiles allow Cooper to whittle his health down, while having powerful shields prevent Viper’s missiles from dealing too much damage. Viper is accompanied by two Scorch-class Titans, and when defeated the first time, will come back a second time. Finishing him off will allow players to reach the Draconis and secure the Ark.

  • Cooper and BT’s actions come to an abrupt halt when they are met with the Apex Predators: refusing to give up the Ark, Cooper orders BT to never surrender it, but with the situation dire, BT asks Cooper to trust him, creating an opening that prevents Cooper’s death but also leads to BT’s destruction. Before powering down, BT unlocks the SERE Kit that provides gear to assist Cooper’s survival, evasion, resistance and extraction. In this kit is a data knife, BT’s data core and a much-welcomed return of the MK5 Smart Pistol.

  • Long considered overpowered and being a no-skill weapon to use in the original Titanfall, the MK5 has been modified in the multiplayer so that it is a boost rather than a standard weapon. It also is limited to a magazine size of twelve rounds with one reserve magazine, lock-on speed is dictated by distance to target and placement of the target relative to the reticle. Finally, players will receive a warning if a user is locking onto them with the MK5 to provide them a chance to evade. In the single player campaign, the MK5 is supremely powerful, being able to easily decimate scores of IMC infantry and has unlimited ammunition in reserve.

  • The Militia have one final surprise for Cooper: a brand-new Vanguard Titan equipped with the Legion loadout. A heavy weapons platform based off the Ogre chassis in the multiplayer, the Legion is fantastic for heavy breakthrough tactics with its ability to take and deal out damage. Its speed is its biggest liability: speedier Titans can flank around it and deal massive damage. In the campaign, the Vanguard’s solid all-around performance means that it’s really a matter of equipment that changes: the Predator cannon is a rotary machine gun that has an incredibly high rate of fire and can destroy lighter enemy Titans in seconds.

  • The Predator cannon can be configured to fire a spread of rounds similar to a shotgun, or else charge up for a longer range shot for damaging distant opponents. The Legion’s defensive ability is a shield mounted onto its cannon, which can absorb some incoming damage. Against the waves of other IMC Titans, the firepower conferred by the Legion loadout comes across as being highly entertaining: even the heavier Scorch class Titans are shredded by the sheer volume of firepower. I imagine that the Predator cannon is firing 20mm rounds.

  • The boss fight against Sloane is on par with Viper in terms of difficulty: she’s armed with the Ion loadout, and her laser core can deal massive damage in a very short period of time even if players have a shield up. The only way to survive is use of cover, dash and returning fire once the laser core runs out. The cronies that assist Sloane can also be a bit of a problem: as soon as Sloane sustains enough damage, she’ll retreat. Taking the other Titans out correspond to fewer guns on Cooper, which simplifies the fight.

  • Some of the remarks that Sloane makes throughout the boss fight are hilarious when juxtaposed: she initially states that she’ll take out Cooper for free, then mentions that defeating Cooper could land her a nice bonus. Here, I make use of the Smart Core to pummel Sloane: the Legion’s Smart Core turns the Titan into a walking cheat code. All rounds fired will automatically arc towards any enemies and weak spots on Titans, making it a powerful way of dealing with a large number of enemies or quickly whittling down the health of a boss.

  • With Sloane’s Titan nearly destroyed, I move in for the execution: Titan executions are quite brutal, and once Sloane is done, it’s time for the classic endgame events where Cooper must stop the Ark before the Militia planet of Harmony is destroyed. The ensuing act of opening the Ark up disables BT, and in a terrifying moment, Blisk appears. However, he says that killing Cooper was never a part of his contract, that the IMC should’ve included it in their scope of work, and that he’s rather impressed with Cooper’s skills and tenacity.

  • Leaving his business card behind, he takes off to see other folks with money, leaving Cooper and BT to stop the Fold Weapon. BT decides that the only way to stop the weapon now is to destroy it by overloading his reactor, and citing his final protocol, to protect the pilot, he ejects Cooper at the last moment. The Fold Weapon is destroyed and begins destabilising the planet: the last sections of Titanfall 2 involve some of the most exhilerating parkour as Cooper must move over a bottomless pit en route to the extraction point.

  • Cooper makes it to a dropship with moments to go, and it jumps into Typhon’s lower orbit just as the planet begins disintegrating. The devastation to Typhon is reminiscent of the results of firing the Death Star in Rogue One: not quite the explosive display seen in A New Hope, the slower decimation of a planet becomes a little more frightening when considering the size of a planet and the forces keeping it together.

  • With Titanfall 2‘s campaign in the books now, I found myself impressed at just how smoothly everything came together. It’s a shame that there aren’t more Titanfall 2 players around, and one will wonder if the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront II will suffer a similar fate; being superior to their predecessor in gameplay and design, as well as featuring a full campaign, the consumer base’s disappointment with the first title might dissuade them from buying the game, keeping player counts low. I’m very excited to see what Battlefront II will be like, although my decision in picking the game up will largely be driven by what impressions I gain of it post-launch, when I watch some gameplay footage. This also means that in October, there will likely be an open beta.

Having now finished the Titanfall 2 campaign in its entirety, I can say that the game was very much deserving of being counted as one of the best shooters in 2016. In my books, it’s a draw between Titanfall 2 and DOOM for the strength of each game’s respective campaigns: with a strong narrative and diverse gameplay, Titanfall 2 never became dull or repetitive. Of course, I may go back through in the future and collect the pilot helmets as time permits, but with Titanfall 2‘s campaign in the books, I may take a look at the multiplayer: I’m not sure how long it would take to rank up, and I’ve heard the learning curve is quite steep, but there are private servers that I can use to grow accustomed to the controls, and also for learning the best routes through a map. With this being said, there is quite a bit on the future horizon on my plate with respect to games: Battlefield 1 Premium is offering no shortage of things to do as I aim to reach rank ten for my assault and scout class, and there are assignment weapons to unlock, and of course, I still need to complete Infinite Warfare. Thus, my discussions of Titanfall 2 will end for the present, although one should not rule out the possibility that I may return at a later date to provide some impressions of my experiences in the multiplayer.

Titanfall 2: Transmitting the news and arrival of the cavalry at the campaign’s ¾ mark

“Trust me.” –BT-7274

It does come across as a pleasant surprise to have played through Titanfall 2‘s sixth mission and coming out as though I just played through the Titanfall equivalent of the Battle of Scarif: BT and Cooper meet up with remaining Militia forces who are pinned down near an IMC Communications Array, and after defeating them, Cooper makes his way across the chasms to obtain a new communications component, making use of an arc tool to activate elements in the environment to make transit of this facility possible. With the new communications part retrieved, Cooper defeats the Apex Predator Richter in a Titan battle, and the Militia forces send a transmission to their main force, which soon arrives on Typhon in order to stop the Ark from being transported to the Fold Weapon. They launch a heavy ground assault to reach the IMC Draconis, which is carrying the Ark, but despite their efforts, the Draconis takes off for the Fold Weapon. Undeterred, Militia forces seize control of IMC vessels in pursuit with the intent of stopping the IMC and saving their world, Harmony, which will be the IMC’s first target should they succeed in reaching the Fold Weapon.

Having made my way through three quarters of Titanfall 2‘s campaign, the game has continued to impress with unique, memorable game mechanics even at this point in its story. Although the time shifting gadget was damaged, Cooper has access to the arc tool, which proves integral in allowing him to traverse the communications facility in order to retrieve a part. The very nature of this facility requires clever use of the arc tool and various cranes to create a suitable path that Cooper can utilise, and it is immensely satisfying to manoeuvre a crane into place to create walls to run along, then hop off and immediately activate a doorway using the arc tool without missing a beat. Like the time shifting device, the arc tool only is presented for one mission. Insofar, every single mission of Titanfall 2‘s campaign has been a thrill, featuring one unique aspect that makes it stand out and remain distinct. As a consequence, the game never feels repetitive, continuously offering something new to mix up the gameplay and advance the narrative further. Once Richter is neutralised, and the transmission is sent, the seventh mission is an all-out Titan assault that never lets up, offering Titan battles on a scale surpassing what was seen in earlier missions, and by this point, Cooper (and by extension, players) have become sufficiently familiar with the different Titan loadouts and abilities to effectively fight their way through an onslaught of IMC forces to reach the Draconis in time.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The distant geological formations bring to mind the Karst landscapes of China, such as those of the Stone Forest and Zhangjiajie National Park. Under a beautiful blue sky and the morning mists, it feels quite peaceful here, but all gaming veterans will remark that the peace won’t last. Visible in the image are also sakura-like blossoms, adding a touch of pink to the landscape. Typhon is definitely a very temperate planet, and while Titanfall 2‘s developers and art team probably won’t mention thus, I imagine that Chinese and Taiwanese geography inspire the geography of Typhon.

  • Nearing the transmission facility, Cooper and BT find it nearly overrun with IMC forces. The Ronin loadout can be found right before BT steps into the noxious fog to engage the IMC. Featuring a shotgun and sword, the Ronin is intended to be a high-speed Titan in the multiplayer, making use of the arc wave to impede enemies and closing the distance to deal damage with both the shotgun and sword. In the campaign, it’s one of the less effectual loadouts, since the Vanguard chassis is a good all-rounder that, while capable of absorbing more damage than the lighter frames, lacks their mobility to make use of these weapons.

  • Once inside the facility, Militia forces lament the lack of an arc tool, essentially a portable power supply that is useful in activating and deactivating constructs. Delving deep into the IMC facility, Cooper eventually manages to find one, and liberates it from one of the robots working with it.

  • The robot becomes saddened that their tool has been commandeered, but won’t otherwise do anything about it. Although essential to the gameplay, one cannot help but feel a little bad for the robot: close inspection of the image shows its emotional state, and its body language, a slouched pose, speaks volumes about how its feeling. Inspection of other robots merrily working on their assignments will find that they wear a smile on their chest-mounted displays.

  • The arc tool has a self-recharging power supply, allowing it to be used indefinitely after a cool-down, stuns robots and can kill organics with prolonged exposure on top of its role in activating power supplies. The tool’s design brings to mind the weapons I’ve seen in Borderlands 2, and according to my Steam library, the last time I played was a shade less than a year ago. I’ve been a bit of a slacker when it comes to finishing games with longer campaigns, and from the sounds of it, I’ve still a ways to go yet with Borderlands 2 before I finish the game.

  • Stunning IMC spectres allow them to be hacked, turning them into allies fighting alongside Cooper. Activating racks of Spectres will likewise provide allies that can help take fire off Cooper. A Reaper appears, but Cooper will find an LG-97 Thunderbolt, an anti-Titan weapon that is functionally identical to that of an unguided rocket launcher in spite of its unusual projectile: the weapon fires a sphere of electrical energy that deals considerable damage to whatever it impacts and can even arc to nearby targets. Once the Reaper is dealt with, the other enemies can be mopped up.

  • One of the more interesting weapon optics in Titanfall 2 is the IR sight that highlights enemies in red. The wide open spaces of this mission initially might suggest a good long range weapon, but as most confrontations occur in close quarters, having a good automatic weapon becomes more practical than a longer range weapon.

  • The open holographic sights affixed to my rifle here brings to mind the sights in Halo 5‘s Battle Rifle. Back in 2014 when the feature was first revealed, aiming down sights was met with resistance from the community, who had felt that one of the defining features of Halo was that there were no emphasis on aiming down sights: save a few weapons that had zoom-in capabilities, Halo‘s arsenal is fired from the hip. These reactions have not been seen since, and players have since acclimatised to the presence of holographic sights in Halo.

  • I personally would love to see Halo 3 and 4 come to PC: years ago, rumours abounded about a possible port, but Microsoft clarifies that Halo would not be ported to PC, citing architectural differences between the Xbox and the PC as reasons why at the time, there were no plans to make the port. This was almost three years ago, and a few days ago, an AMD marketting campaign hinted that Halo 3 might be coming to PC after all. There’s not too much information on whether or not this is authentic, but if it is, I’ll likely give things a spin. After making use of a pair of cranes to move a pair of platforms to form walls to run along, I smile and recall the days of Half Life 2, where environment puzzles were similarly utilised to encourage lateral thinking.

  • By this point in Titanfall 2, parkouring to the transmission dish to retrieve a working component is straightforwards, and it was a simple matter of obtaining the component after moving the dish into the appropriate position. While there are many fetch quests in Titanfall 2, they are done remarkably well and never feel monotonous. Further to this, another design choice that makes the missions fun is the fact that I do not have to backtrack in order to return to where I started.

  • Instead, there’s a series of panels that one must activate in order to get back across by means of wall-running. There are a few platforms in between to give players a short chance to catch their breath, but with three-quarters of Titanfall 2 done, players should for the most part, be comfortable with timing the arc tool and their jumps to return to BT very quickly. Upon arrival, Cooper finds BT fending off a large group of enemies, and embarks BT to disable them.

  • Against the large number of smaller enemies, including Reapers, I switched to the Ion loadout, thinking the splitter rifle’s rounds would be effective against robotic enemies. It’s actually one of the weaker weapons available to a Titan, and has an alternate fire mode that allows it to behave like a shotgun. Once all of the enemies are dealt with, mercenary Richter arrives with his Tone-class Titan.

  • Guides out there suggest the Ronin loadout for defeating Richter: since the Tone is a long range setup, it is unsuited for dealing with the Ronin’s exceptional short range capabilities, and coupled with the Vanguard-class’ increased health, closing the distance isn’t too difficult. Of course, I always tend to wing it when it comes to shooters now, and I ended up using the Ion loadout, dooming Richter’s Titan with the laser core before finishing him off with an execution.

  • At the beginning of the seventh mission, an all-Titan combat mission, I switch back to the Tone loadout and hammer the numerous Titans separating the Militia task force and the Ark. It is pure chaos in this mission, and there are supposed to be three pilot helmets scattered throughout this mission. I did not bother collecting them, but they appear to be located in the calmer areas. The seventh mission marks the first mission that I spent exclusively in a Titan, and it was incredibly fun to decimate enemy Titans and infantry alike.

  • Today is Easter Sunday, and it’s back to work tomorrow. I spent most of the Easter Long Weekend relaxing: on Good Friday, I purchased Battlefield 1: Premium and won my first match on Rupture, a beautiful map overgrown with poppies, and went for a walk nearby. Yesterday, after heading out to lift weights in the morning, I spent most of the afternoon in Battlefield 1, and by the time we sat down to Easter dinner (turkey, stuffing, ham, pineapple and a simple vegetable medley), it was snowing outside. In the aftermath of the Flames’ second loss to the Anaheim Ducks, today was a bit of a quieter day: the sun was shining when I woke up, and I’ve finally submitted my taxes for the year.

  • After a homemade fish-and-chips lunch, I stepped out to do some shopping in preparation for events of the very near future, and returned home to play more Battlefield 1. In one match today, I managed to go 17 and 15 on Fort de Vaux, a close-quarters map that lends itself to the sort of frenzy seen in Battlefield 3 and 4‘s Operation Metro map, as well as Operation Locker of Battlefield 4. I’m working on the assignment to unlock the Ribeyrolles 1918 and have all of the required kills with the Automatico M1918 Factory. The next part, to get twenty headshots with the MP18 Optical, will be substantially trickier. After the events of today, I’m very nearly at rank nine for the assault class, and are a few thousand points from rank seven on the scout class.

  • I’ll be returning in the near future to do a proper talk on Battlefield 1: Premium now that I’ve joined the premium club, but for now, it’s back to Titanfall 2, where I’ve found the Northstar loadout. Equipped with a plasma rail gun that does obscene damage against other Titans, the Northstar is best suited for long range engagements and can quickly destroy Titans from afar. In exchange, it is very unsuited for close quarters engagements, and in the multiplayer, will be ripped apart if one is attempting to engage other Titans at close ranges.

  • The Flight Core boosts the Northstar into the air and allows for a barrage of rockets to be fired at opponents below. While in the air, the rockets fired can deal a total damage exceeding even that of the Tone’s Salvo core, although these rockets are unguided. The different Titan loadouts can be switched out on the fly, making it possible to immediately adapt oneself to any situation. The campaign-only Expedition loadout is the best for anti-personnel combat, while the Tone loadout is generally best against other Titans.

  • Against the Reapers, I decided to try the Scorch loadout: its primary armament is the T-203 Thermite Launcher, which acts as a single-shot grenade launcher effective for area denial. Its projectiles arc substantially in flight, and aiming down sights will provide a small indicator for where the shot will end up. All of its abilities are based around thermite and fire: its defense measures melt incoming ordinance, and its core generates walls of flame. I’ve not made too much use of this in the campaign owing to the fact that this setup is not well-suited for direct attack against other Titans.

  • Commander Sarah Briggs accompanies Cooper on this mission, providing support and is more than capable of dealing with threats. She warns Cooper that the Draconis is about to take off and stresses the importance of reaching it, but regardless of how efficient Cooper is, the Draconis will always take off with the Ark, setting in motion the events of the next mission. I finished Titanfall 2‘s campaign this weekend, and will be aiming to get out a talk on the final missions on short order. With the campaign done, I might give the multiplayer a spin: I will need to learn the ins and outs in order to survive matches against other human players and unlock items, but there is a private mode that allows me to play against AI if I so choose.

The diverse gameplay and missions contributes to why Titanfall 2‘s campaign was considered to be one of the best in 2016, a year already with a number of contenders, including DOOM. Not knowing what each mission entails and walking through each level was a constant thrill, but this sense of unknown was offset by BT: maintaining communications with Cooper and providing the occasional bit of wit, it made the desolate reaches of the missions more manageable. However, by the seventh mission, with the Militia present, it feels fantastic to have numerous allies in my corner to provide covering fire and support as the Militia push towards stopping the IMC. Titanfall 2 continues to be full of surprises well into its campaign; while games can feel as though they are drawn thin if they count on too many mechanics, but this is not the case in Titanfall 2. Seamlessly woven into the narrative, each mechanic serves to keep the game fresh, being dispensed with in order to keep players from growing complacent with any one method. Ultimately, it comes down to Cooper making use of the most in his environment, and perhaps through its campaign, Titanfall 2 is suggesting that to perform in the multi-player, individuals should keep their eyes open for opportunity and advantages in their environments.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered- Act III Review and Reflection

“At least the world didn’t end. Hit it.” –Staff Sergeant Griggs

In the aftermath of his son’s death, Imran Zakhaev seizes control of a nuclear launch installation and launches nuclear-tipped ICBMs at the Eastern Seaboard. Unless these missiles are stopped, upwards of 41 million casualties may result. A joint SAS and Force Recon operation is conducted, opening with a HALO jump that sees the combined forces reach the facility, take control of the command room and safely destroy the missiles over the Atlantic Ocean. Escaping the facility with Zakhaev’s forces in pursuit, the joint forces are stopped when a Mi-24 Hind destroys a bridge. Despite their efforts to hold out, they sustain numerous casualties – Zakhaev himself arrives and begins executing the wounded, but a Loyalist Mi-28 Havoc takes out the Hind, creating a distraction that allows Captain Price to give Soap his M1911. Soap kills Zakhaev and his escorts, and Loyalist forces move in to secure the area and tend to the wounded. The incident is covered up: the media presents the missiles as a Russian weapons test, and the ultranationalist involvement in the Middle East is swept under the rug. This brings Modern Warfare to an end, and at the time of writing, this marks the third time I’ve gone through the campaign in full. A thoroughly enjoyable campaign by all accounts, my initial impressions when I played through this five years ago was that the atmospherics were superb, capturing fully the sense of a squad working together to prevent the instigation of a nuclear war by rogue forces. Up until then, I was most familiar with James Bond and Halo as my shooters: I pressed through missions alone, counting on my own wits and equipment to advance. Thus, when I played Modern Warfare, it was a breath of fresh air to be working with other soldiers: I was quite unaccustomed to notions of breaching and dependency on squadmates to open doors for me, and therefore did not find them to be a distraction. Upon finishing, I was impressed with the campaign’s immersive nature, and presently, Modern Warfare Remastered has done much to recapture these old feelings and add on top of it solid new visuals that brings a classic to life using current generation rendering and graphics techniques.

When I completed Modern Warfare for the first time back in June 2012, I was just beginning to watch CLANNAD and was more than halfway through my introductory physics course. At this point in the term, the second midterm had just concluded the day before, and unlike the first midterm, I had performed quite a bit better than the first. The day after the second midterm, I only had a lab (lectures ran four of the five weekdays) – finishing this, I was free to head home, and took things easy by finishing Modern Warfare. I vividly recall the point where I reached the transmission tower and was asked to destroy it with C4, subsequently wrapping up the game that same evening. At this point in June, the final exam was still three weeks away, and at this point in the summer, the physics class meant that I could not study fully for the MCAT. What happened subsequently is largely a blur now, but I do remember beating Portal 2 in the days following; the day before the final exam, it was raining, and I had studied as best as I could. I spent the remainder of that afternoon playing Half-Life 2. Ultimately, I would end up with an A- in the physics course: I was fully ready to throw in the towel, but seeing the resolve in Modern Warfare (and events of CLANNAD) provided some of my motivation to keep trying until all opportunities were spent. With the physics final done, I would spend the remainder of July preparing for the MCAT. This physics course ended up being the only spring course I would ever take during my undergraduate program, and was a gruelling one owing to how condensed the materials were: I was most grateful to have also had the chance to play through a fantastic game to kick back and regroup.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • This post is going to be one long trip down memory lane: I will recall moments from the summer of 2012 as I push through the thirty images and intersperse them with some of the experiences I’ve had while making my way through what remains one of the most memorable FPS campaigns I’ve experienced. We begin here, landing in a foggy valley shortly after touching down. The HALO jump has gone pear-shaped, and the first goal is to locate Griggs after he’s separated from the others. His signal takes Soap and the others to a small village.

  • After clearing the village out, Soap locates Griggs, and the mission proceeds. Like almost all missions preceding it, “Ultimatum” starts Soap out with the M4A1 SOPMOD. This form of the weapon is one of the most versatile, akin to the XM-8 rifle seen in Battlefield: Bad Company 2. In general, assault rifles in video games are exceptional in that they can be adapted for use in most situations. A secondary weapon is usually then geared towards a specific task (close-quarters stopping power, longer-range accuracy or anti-vehicular readiness).

  • Even now, I still remember the physics labs that were a part of the physics course. I was never too fond of these, as they merely offered practical experience in the theoretical concepts being taught in class. Time consuming and tedious, I nonetheless strove to perform here in the event that my exam marks were unsatisfactory: I completed the seventh of the nine labs when I walked out into this field where the transmission pylon was for the first time. It was an evening, and having completed the second midterm, there was no material to review: I typically spent around two hours after each lecture reviewing materials and doing practise problems in the textbook.

  • After destroying the transmission tower, Soap and the others make their way into a labyrinth of derelict buildings. These sites apparently dot the far reaches of Russia, relics of the days of the Soviet Union, and unlike their real-world counterparts, which are largely peaceable, fierce hostilities await the joint SAS-Force Recon groups. The close quarters of the buildings notwithstanding, it’s still a wiser idea to carry a longer-range weapon, like the SVD-63, as a secondary weapon (as opposed to a PDW or LMG). It was here that I managed to shoot down a helicopter with an RPG, unlocking one of the achievements for Modern Warfare Remastered.

  • I did a second physics course in following years; with the focus being on electricity and magnetism, I rather enjoyed this one more than the first physics course. Even back during high school, I preferred electricity and magnetism over Newtonian kinematics and dynamics: one of the more interesting things to note is that some two years had elapsed between the two physics courses, and so, I entered the course with a textbook that was an edition behind. It suddenly strikes me that I am unlikely to use that textbook again, although I suppose that it could still be useful as a reference should the need ever arise.

  • Of course, I’m now at a stage where GPA and grades are of limited relevance, being pure numbers that are strictly for bragging rights. With this in mind, I will finally make known my old MCAT scores at a later date, since the five-year period where my MCAT scores are considered valid by the AAMC draws to a close. If I were to desire a career in medicine and admissions to medical school after this point, I would need to do another MCAT; since 2015, a new MCAT was introduced. Compared to the one I took back in 2012, which was a five-and-a-half hour long exam, the new MCAT spans seven hours and thirty minutes (including the half-hour break). The exam is truly a battle of attrition, and I sometimes feel that my thesis defense exams are, in a way, much easier than the MCAT.

  • With this in mind, MCAT stories will be explored in full as a topic for another day: this post is, after all, titled “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered” rather than “MCAT recollections remastered”. Back in Modern Warfare, I’ve finished shooting my way through the abandoned factory complexes: moving through carefully and methodically shooting all ultranationalist resistance is the way to clear this part: while Call of Duty‘s multiplayer is often considered to be very much a run-and-gun shooter compared to more tactical games out there, ironically, running and gunning in the campaign is not an effective strategy.

  • “Ultimatum” draws to a close with a pair of nuclear missiles launching. A mere two days before I was slated to write the MCAT, a friend asked me about citations in a paper. They were working on a talk about WMD and Iran, remarking to me that talk of weapons and destruction was a depressing topic. We met in an introductory Japanese class, and although infinite distance now separates our hearts, some of the memories from that summer of us sharing conversation and supporting one another remain some of the fondest I’ve got. Of course, time and space makes fools of us, and these days, we’re out of touch largely because staying out of touch is recommended as a means of letting the pain heal.

  • Back in Modern Warfare, the SAS link up with a US Sniper Team as “All In” begins. They push through into the launch facility. In my earlier discussions of Modern Warfare, I largely omitted screenshots of these sections of the game, as they were overshadowed by “All Ghillied Up” and “One Shot, One Kill”. Further, the low polygon counts of Modern Warfare‘s original incarnation become increasingly obvious by this point of the game, which felt distinctly like the “Surface”, “Bunker” and “Silo” missions of GoldenEye 64. By comparison, the remastered graphics look astounding.

  • The final stages of Modern Warfare are very high intensity, occurring within the span of a few hours. The last act in the game feels very quick, and each time I’ve gone through Modern Warfare, I’ve played the third act almost all at once owing to the pacing. There is a specific path that Soap has to follow here, and straying from it will invariably mean dealing with infinitely-respawning enemies. It took me several tries to get the path right despite having played through this two times previously.

  • Access into the facility is complicated by the presence of BMP-2 IFVs. While Soap is instructed to use C4 in conjunction with smoke rounds (which I comply to here and utilised back in my earlier play-throughs), RPG-7 rockets are an equally viable option that will make quick work of these vehicles, allowing players to pick them off at a distance at the expense of sacrificing their secondary weapon. With the versatility of the M4A1 SOPMOD in mind, however, this is the easier way of doing things, although RPG rounds are in short supply. For the first BMP-2, C4 and smoke is the better option, as the BMP is nearby and therefore, easier to reach using smoke grenades.

  • Price will shout for Soap and the others to head right owing to the extreme resistance faced, and for the sake of completing this mission, it would be wise to take this route. The other route is heavily defended and will leave players exposed to counterattack, but those tenacious enough to pick their way through will find an FGM-148 Javelin, which makes eliminating the remaining two BMP-2s a much easier task.

  • I managed to capture a screenshot of a bullet missing Soap in this image here, bringing to mind the blaster fire effects of Star Wars. According to Mythbusters, blaster bolts travel an average of 208 to 216 km/h (converted to units for a physics context, 57.78 to 60 m/s). The Mythbusters values do not account for variations between different blaster makes and builds in-universe. By comparison, bullets average 3841.2 and 5486.4 km/h (1067 and1524 m/s, respectively). However, official documentation suggests that the blaster bolts are themselves invisible, travelling at or close to light speed, and the glow resulting is from the energy emitted by the bolt in transit.

  • Star Wars, being soft science fiction, provides only a minimal explanation for most of their technologies, but in spite of this, it is always a thrill to watch Star Wars for the special effects alone. Rogue One was a fantastic movie, and Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is set for release somewhere in December 2017. At the same time, Star Wars Battlefront II is also set to release, and the game is to contain a single-player campaign. As I’ve done for most titles where I’m interested in the campaign more than the multiplayer, I will likely wait until this one goes on sale before picking it up.

  • After the tarmac to the missile facility is cleared, it’s time to enter the bowels of the facility, Throughout the mission, Soap’s squadmates can be seen carrying power saws: it is here that they are put to use, cutting through the steel grating to the ventilation shafts leading into the launch facility below.

  • The last major game I played involving infiltration of a missile silo (discounting the original incarnation of Modern Warfare) was GoldenEye 64. This was the game that got me into shooters, and it was playing at my cousin’s place during Christmas that introduced me to the joys of shooters. While the technologies driving FPS have advanced significantly since the days of GoldenEye 64, the thrills of a shooter have largely remain unchanged for the past two decades.

  • An interesting bit of trivia is that this missile facility is set in the Altai Mountains, located in the central-eastern reaches of Russia, but the pre-mission tracker shows the mission as taking place in the Caucasus Mountains. With the revelation that Modern Warfare‘s third act is in the Altai mountains, this marks yet another location I’ve been interested in as being visited in Modern Warfare: extremely remote, the Altai Mountains have remain untouched since the last Ice Age and is home to a diverse array of flora and fauna. The area is dotted with lakes and vast mountain ranges, and in Chinese, the Altai Mountains are known as “Gold Mountain”.

  • The interior of the missile facility in the original incarnation of Modern Warfare felt distinctly dated: low-resolution polygons and basic lighting means that the interior is much brighter than its remastered form. Moreover, the increased lighting throws into sharp relief the interiors’ limited details. Although the mission remains very entertaining in its original incarnation, it offered few locations where I felt inclined to take a screenshot.

  • The close quarters confines of the missile facility means that a shotgun becomes a viable tool here owing to its stopping power, so I swapped out my empty RPG for the M1014. A large Soviet Union emblem can be seen on the wall adjacent: this was a simple metal structure mounted onto the wall in the original, but in the remastered, the new emblem has been given new colour and life. The stairwell in the remastered version is much darker than it was in the original to better capture the moody, dank interiors of the missile facility

  • This mission’s name, “No Fighting In the War Room”, is titled after Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, a satirical comedy film about the dangers of nuclear weapons. The original line promoting this mission’s name is  “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!”, one of the most famous lines in the entire movie. Here, I push through corridors containing the missiles themselves. Unlike the large multi-story silos of GoldenEye 64, these ones are much smaller, but the missiles they contain are no less deadly, carrying MIRV payloads. The facility appears to be built with the dense pack methodology in mind, where missiles were packed closely together to increase the chance at least several could survive a first strike and be utilised for retaliation.

  • A heavy blast door opens slowly once activated, being one of the slowest doors I’ve ever seen in a game and while Price is impatient, Gaz only makes the tongue-in-cheek suggestion of pushing the doors. Incredibly heavy, these doors would have offered the control room protection from external forces, and without dedicated equipment and a lot of time, getting through is nigh impossible. In their present circumstances, they can only wait as the doors open completely before pushing through to the control room.

  • The fears and uncertainty surrounding a nuclear exchange between the United States and Soviet Union was very much a real threat from the 1950s into the late 1980s: my generation, the millennials, are completely unfamiliar with the ever-present threat of a nuclear war and grew up listening to news reports of terrorism instead. However, with the recent deployment of a carrier task group into the Korean Peninsula and the increasing belligerence of North Korea, I am growing a little concerned that things could go hot. As Robert McNamara put it, nuclear weapons in human hands are a recipe for disaster; unless cooler heads prevail, the world is hurtling to the brink of devastation not felt since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

  • When the mission starts, the controllers coordinating this mission still had not acquired the codes yet to abort the missiles. In the eleven minutes I was given to reach the control room, the abort codes have been acquired. Soap enters them into a console, and command confirms that the missiles have been successfully destroyed in mid-flight. The world may have not ended, but there’s still a ways to go: Soap and the others must now evacuate the facility and reach an extraction point.

  • The keyboard console to enter the abort codes is seen in the left-hand side of the screen, and when the codes are successfully entered, there are no indicators at the mission control centre to suggest the nuclear weapons have indeed been neutralised. These are tense moments, and while awaiting the confirmation, I wander about, locating the intel on the room’s far left. I’ve opted to leave all the intel in place for now and as noted previously, will be returning quite separately in order to locate all of the intel at a later date. Previous efforts to do so never materialised, but I will try to make a more honest effort for Modern Warfare Remastered.

  • The last mission of Modern Warfare is appropriately titled “Game Over”, and of all of the missions in the game, is the most hectic and wild as Soap and the others must make their way to the extraction site. If Modern Warfare‘s previous missions was the process of studying for the MCAT and all of the build-up leading to test day, then “Game Over” is the MCAT itself: like Soap, who must now fire his M4A1 to hold off ultranationalist forces while in a moving vehicle, the MCAT is an exam for which there can be no true preparation for.

  • For a moment, Modern Warfare turns into Need for Speed: shooting out the gunners in the pursuing trucks is all Soap can do to keep alive. Like the MCAT, it’s not really about what one knows at this point, but rather, how one applies their knowledge and soft skills to survive. On my test day, knowing how to take on the exam and answer questions using logic and reasoning proved to be a far greater asset than the facts themselves. From start to finish, the exam was a blur, and I only vaguely remember sitting in front of the computer, filling out questions by reasoning through them as much as calling upon all of the knowledge I’d picked up in a classroom under the morning light during the MCAT preparation course.

  • Back in Modern Warfare Remastered, I take aim at yet another truck-full of ultranationalist soldiers. I’m not sure if it is possible to shoot through the windshield and kill the driver (this would make it considerably easier), but firing short, controlled bursts while aiming down sights is the best way to go about surviving the car chase. It is non-stop action, and the worst part is running out of ammunition and being forced to reload, which feels like an eternity. Consequently, picking one’s shots calmly even during such chaos goes a long ways towards ensuring survival.

  • An Mi-24 Hind appears and begins opening fire on Soap and the convoy with rockets and gunfire. Picking up an RPG, Soap’s efforts cause the Hind to leave for a few moments. Despite being on a moving vehicle, there are a few moments where players can line up a perfect shot on the Hind. However, the Hind lacks any hit boxes: as it is a scripted entity, it cannot be destroyed. In the original Modern Warfare, there are no water reflections in the lake – the scenery has been duplicated and inverted along the y-axis. However, Modern Warfare Remastered rectifies this: a proper water surface is presented to give a much more realistic-looking body of water. Players are not likely to notice this owing to the destruction the Hind is causing.

  • The vehicle chase comes to an abrupt halt when the Hind destroys the bridge. Players must hold out for a few moments, and I pick up an M60E4, pummelling ultranationalist forces before a second explosion knocks down the entire team. The music here, also titled “Game Over”, is one of the most solid pieces of the game’s soundtrack: it becomes darker and brooding as the squad faces certain doom, for Zakhaev begins executing them. Hopeful motifs begin playing when Price slides Soap his M1911 after a Loyalist Mi-28 destroys the ultranationalist Hind.

  • Picking the weapon up, I take aim and shoot Zakhaev in the head, along with his cronies. Here, heroic elements seep into the song, swelling into a crescendo when Loyalist forces tend to the surviving SAS men. This song captures everything about how an MCAT feels in its run, and the ending elements reflect on the sense of relief to know the world has not ended. When my MCAT ended, this song filled my mind, and I walked out into the evening sun, feeling a great weight lifted off my shoulders. I set off for dinner, and arriving home, I came home to a notification on my iPad, inquiring about the exam, to which I responded: “I’m quite glad it to be over now; hopefully, it’ll’ve been alright”.

The dialogues and music from Modern Warfare would also carry me through the summer; I listened to the melancholic, yet heroic pieces while studying for my MCAT, and joked frequently with friends using lines from the game to illustrate how I felt about the exam. It’s been five years since then, and although Modern Warfare Remastered might have been improved, the game itself still evokes strong memories of a long-distant summer. These memories account for why my final verdict for Modern Warfare Remastered (a strong recommendation) is also not one to be taken at face value owing to my own biases. The question thus remains: is Modern Warfare Remastered worth buying? After all, the game is essentially a ten-year-old title given new graphics – its mechanics still handle as they did a decade ago. The answer to that is simple: the game is not worth the purchase at full price, and folks looking to experience Modern Warfare Remastered as a standalone without Infinite Warfare might be wiser to wait. With this being said, folks who’ve never played the original Modern Warfare may find the Legacy Edition worth buying if it is on sale: one is getting two games for the price of one (or better) under these circumstances. I purchased the Infinite Warfare Legacy Edition mainly because of the fact that it was on sale and because it’s nearing the five-year anniversary of one of my MCAT, I am feeling a bit nostalgic about the events of five years earlier. With Modern Warfare Remastered in the books, I can easily say that the remastered version brings new life to a decade-old classic, and for the present, it’s time to wrap up Titanfall 2, before taking on the Battlefield 1 Premium experience. I will be returning in May and June to finish Infinite Warfare.

Titanfall 2: Puzzles and time travel at the campaign’s halfway point

“I have concluded we should take no further shortcuts.” –BT-7274

After defeating Kane, Cooper and BT make their way further towards Major Anderson’s last known position, electing to take a shortcut that BT has scouted out. However, when they enter a vast subterranean facility, BT is separated from Cooper. Making his way through the manufacturing plant alone, Cooper finds himself taunted by the mercenary Ash, who begrudgingly comes to respect his skill and is genuinely surprised when Cooper survives everything she can throw at him. Blisk orders her to scuttle the facility, and Cooper manages to reunite with BT. Heading off for the exit, they are stopped by Ash: she faces with him in battle with a Ronin-class Titan, and in a short battle, Cooper executes Ash, exploding her into a pulp. They then continue to the IMC research facility, and locate Major Anderson, who is dead as a result of a time travel mishap. Cooper locates a special device for manipulating time, makes his way through the facility and learns of the Fold Weapon, which can destroy entire worlds by means of a time-displacement mechanic. However, the weapon is dependent on the power supply known as the Ark. With this information, Cooper and BT must relay their information to the Militia forces, surmising that the IMC plan to destroy the world of Harmony in their campaign against the Militia. Further into Titanfall 2‘s campaign, the puzzle-platformer mechanic of the game is becoming increasingly prevalent, adding a unique dimension to the game’s storyline: on top of smooth shooting and being able to pilot a mecha, Titanfall 2 adds new mechanics into the game in order to keep things fresh; the game has been full of surprises so far, and no two levels have ever felt derivative or repetitive in any way.

In fact, the inclusion of platforming, a vast underground complex, a female antagonist insulting the player and a mechanism for cleverly mixing up the gameplay means that Titanfall 2 feels a great deal as though elements of Portal 2 made their way into DOOM. The combination of platforming with an incredibly fluid shooting experience never comes across as being forced into the game; level designs and gameplay mechanics are clearly built with these two gameplay components in mind, creating maps that end up being both memorable and rewarding to complete. One of the reasons why Portal 2 was acclaimed was because finishing a puzzle allowed the player to feel they had accomplished something: to port this over into Titanfall 2 without having it overtake the shooter elements means that clever puzzle solving must be completed in conjunction with a sure aim and good reflexes – the sum of these components contributes to the fun factor when playing these missions. In particular, the time shift mechanic of the fifth mission, “Cause and Effect”, is a solid example of how Titanfall 2 innovates without overusing a game mechanic. When Cooper picks up the wrist device and is able to jump between the past and present IMC facility, it opens up the possibilities for novel level design. Moving between the pristine and derelict installation, Cooper encounters different threats and different setups: what was an impassible laser barrier becomes an open path at the press of a button, and a deadly flaming chasm in one time is an ordinary hallway in the other. Strategically flipping between these two time periods allows Cooper to both survive and progress through the facility (I’ve abused time shifting to safely reload before continuing a firefight on more than one occasion). However, besides being an exceptionally ingenious gameplay mechanic, the time shift also is a highly innovative story-telling mechanic; Cooper is immersed in a living flashback that explains the Fold Weapon in a far greater level of detail than data logs or communications could accomplish without disrupting the narrative of Titanfall 2.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • In a comment left by one of my readers for the last Titanfall 2 talk, the sentiment was that Titanfall 2‘s campaign felt “unnecessary”, with “horrid” writing. The individual cited Gundam as a better example of the dynamic between man and machine. I do not directly address rants: this is a lesson that dates back to 2012, where shortly after the release of the K-On! Movie, an individual’s exceptionally negative rant about the movie was accepted on the basis of their presence in the anime community. Challenging that landed me in hot water and led some folks to even boycott this blog, so presently, I don’t respond directly to strongly negative opinions.

  • Because I will invariably be asked as to how I would respond to those claims, I will provide an answer here. I would open by asking how Gundam better portrays the pilot and mobile suit dynamic, since I feel that in Gundam, the mobile suits themselves are tools that help pilots fulfil an end, and that it was only in Gundam 00 where pilots became attached to their Gundams. I would similarly then inquire – in what way is the narrative of Titanfall 2 predictable and see if some examples of other works that integrate dynamic time travel as a means of both completing a mission and acting as exposition without a separate flashback.

  • The burst core for the expedition loadout was fun, but by this point in Titanfall 2, I’ve finally grown accustomed to the Tone loadout. The harder-hitting 40mm rounds might be slower to fire than the 20mm X0-16, but by forcing me to pick my shots, I can hit my targets with a much higher accuracy. The ordinance of the Tone can only be fired if three consecutive shots are landed on an enemy Titan: this loadout is much less effective against personnel, but is probably the most versatile against other Titans.

  • After being separated from BT, Cooper must make his way alone through a gargantuan underground complex, where prefabricated housing is being assembled. The manic design of the level brings to mind the caverns of Portal 2 that Chell finds herself in after falling through an opening. In order to cross the large gaps, Cooper must make full use of the jump kit and any advantages in the environment to move over the deep chasms. While Cooper and BT are separated, BT will be in touch with Cooper, so players will never feel too alone while pressing deeper into the complex.

  • Ash is a secondary antagonist in Titanfall 2, whose consciousness was moved into a robot body after she was injured. Working for the Apex Predators, she runs this facility when not working on an assignment. She has a playful but sadistic streak, enjoying the construction of combat simulations not dissimilar to those built by GLaDOS of Portal 2 and pits captured Militia soldiers against IMC technology. Noticing Cooper, she begins with insults, similar to GLaDOS, but later comments on his resilience and decides to let him fight in one of the similations.

  • Here, I’m wielding the G2A5, a battle rifle that is highly versatile. Firing in a semi-automatic pattern, the G2A5 excels medium to long ranges; with low recoil, it hits hard and can be counted upon as a reliable medium range weapon, although its lower rate of fire means that it is wise to pair it with a suitable close quarters weapon, such as an SMG or shotgun. The engravings on the weapon read “Lastimosa Armoury”, and while one might be inclined to think that the weapon is related to Captain Lastimosa, one of the developers of the game is named Ryan Lastimosa, suggesting that it’s a callback to him.

  • Here, I am wielding the EPG-1, an anti-personnel plasma grenade launcher. The weapon projectiles travel slowly but deal massive damage. I’ve always found that the more conventional automatic weapons and battle rifles are more effective than flashier weapons on the virtue that ammunition for them is more common, and there are precious few moments to utilise such weapons. However, my experience in FPS campaigns also mean that there might be opportunities to use more powerful weapons later on, hence my decision to hang onto the EPG-1 here.

  • The electric grenades turned out to be an incredibly fun weapon to field against the IMC grunts present throughout the facility. As it turns out, having just the G2A5 was sufficient as a weapon, and Cooper’s progress leads even Ash to congratulate him; she points the way to a simulation dome. I died on several attempts to get here, but ultimately made it, entering a fake valley in the mountains with some prefabricated structures.

  • After Ash recreates the simulation and I defeated the first wave of Spectres, a Reaper appears. Occupying the mid-point between the smaller Spectres and Stalkers, and the full-sized Titans, Reapers carry powerful weapons that can decimate foot-mobiles and quickly wear down a Titan’s shields. The EPG-1 I’ve been carrying all this time comes out, and I empty the plasma grenades into the Reaper, destroying it. The second Reaper that appears was dealt with in a similar manner, leaving Ash surprised as to how Cooper is still alive.

  • Finally reunited with BT, I move to take on Ash using the Tone loadout. Unlike the fight with Kane, I was quite comfortable with using the Tone loadout’s setup now, pummelling Ash’s Ronin-class with 40mm rounds and lock-on missiles. After crippling her Titan, I made to melee the doomed Titan and ended up executing Ash: BT pulls Ash from the Ronin and squeezes her until she explodes in a bloody spray. Apparently, Ash will criticise Cooper for using the Core ability, so I decided to play honourably and bested her without using my Salvo Core.

  • To make my way though the abandoned IMC facility is to bring back memories of the Test Chambers seen in Portal 2: from the damaged concrete to the growth of vegetation through the inner chambers, the installation has clearly been devoid of human activity for quite some time. Through the missions earlier stages, residual energy causes Cooper to be transported sporadically back through time, revisiting the facility when the IMC had still occupied it. Issues surrounding a possible time paradox arise in this mission, since it is Cooper’s presence that causes the IMC to test-fire their Fold Weapon, bringing him to investigate the facility.

  • Here, I come across an empty lecture hall. I chose to stay back and avoid interrupting, but if Cooper moves forward and is noticed by the lecturer, all subsequent recordings will allude to Cooper’s presence in what is a very clever touch. The combination of abandonment and a theatre-like environment brings to mind the abandoned theaters of Taiwan: as Alexander Synaptic describes, Taiwan had numerous theaters n the 1970s and 1980s, but changing times meant declining audiences, leading to their demise. By the 2000s, these buildings remain unused and crumbling, conferring a sense of melancholy. One can only imagine what it would be like to explore these places with the Titanfall 2 OST as a background accompaniment.

  • The Mastiff is a pump action shotgun that fulfills the role of the ultimate close quarters weapon, firing energy rounds in place of pellets. It’s one of the most powerful weapons at close quarters, and par the course of a shotgun, has high recoil and a slow projectile travel speed. Here, I navigate one of the laboratories in the IMC complex. Using the time travel device effectively is the only way to navigate the facility, as some passages open in one time period are inaccessible in the other. Besides navigation, there is one additional use for the device; it can be used to very quickly extricate oneself from certain danger, and I’ve shifted between time periods to escape damage or execute a reload.

  • The combination of platforming and switching timelines is a refined, unique take on Portal 2‘s puzzle-solving gameplay. It’s been quite some time since I’ve played through Portal 2 in full. This would have been back during the summer of 2012; six days after my MCAT had passed, Valve announced the Perpetual Testing Initiative, where all individuals owning Portal 2 would be given a seventy-five percent off coupon to encourage their friends to participate in co-op test chambers with them. While I never did make use of the co-op mode, being able to play Portal 2‘s top-tier campaign for five dollars was a fantastic experience.

  • Since I built a custom PC and acquired a new screen, I never did go back to play Portal 2, but on the list of things I wish to do as summer rolls around is to experience Portal 2 again. For now, however, my adventure through Titanfall 2 continues: here, I make it into a vast room where some well-timed time-shifting is required for navigation. Highly clever from a gameplay and narrative perspective, the time-shifting mechanic in Titanfall 2 is probably accomplished by designing the level twice and then switching out the assets and effects in world space. I imagine that the unused assets are probably cached and stored in memory so the transition is seamless: dangers escaped from one time period will still be in the same spot when one returns.

  • As Cooper gets closer to the course that Major Anderson takes, he learns of the Fold Weapon’s existence and its dependence on the Ark. I am wielding the D-2 Double Take here, a double-barreled marksman rifle that fires two shots simultaneously and can penetrate multiple targets, although the projectile speed is on the slower end. The Double Take has a unique variable zoom sight, and owing to its design, attaching a different sight will not remove the existing sight from the weapon.

  • A holographic display illustrates how the Fold Weapon works in a visual manner. From the sounds of it, the Fold Weapon works by creating a fold in space-time and can shift objects through this, causing destruction of an unprecedented scale. While exposition suggests this weapon was found, built by precursors akin to Halo‘s Forerunners, that it can be moved through time as well as space may also imply that the weapon was developed in the future and was transported back into the past. There’s all sorts of potential paradoxes that arise in Titanfall 2 with time shifting, and since my background is not in relativity or quantum mechanics, I do not have the authority to make any concrete claims on how realistic Titanfall 2 is. However, I can comment that I am watching Interstellar now; back in 2014, I wished to see the movie but circumstances precluding my seeing it prevailed.

  • Almost out of the facility here, I high-tail it back to the exit in order to link up with the Militia forces and transmit the information to them for further action. By this point in time, we’re now more than six months since Your Name released, and news of the BDs are still nonexistent. I did some investigating and it seems that the delay in its release stems from its immense success in theatres. Home releases usually happen when ticket sales decline, and apparently, the companies are aiming for the film to top Spirited Away. Any home release could challenge ticket sales, so the distributors are holding out until things settle a little; more conservative estimates put Your Name as coming out in June or later.

  • With this being said, I will still review and write about Your Name in spite of the fact that its wide dissemination and discussion renders ineffectual the purpose of a review. For the time being, I will focus on the present and focus on completing Titanfall 2, as well as handling priorities such as work and taxes. Back in Titanfall 2, it turns out I can use the time shifting device inside BT and ended up having a ball of a time blowing away enemy Titans. By this point in the game, the Tone loadout is my absolute favourite, surpassing the default Expedition loadout for its versatility. There’s also the fact that the 40 mm cannon sounds incredibly satisfying to fire.

  • The mission “Cause and Effect” ends with a malfunction in the time-shifting device, freezing time absolutely. To achieve this effect is actually not as challenging as one might think: it’s a matter of placing 3D assets in space and giving them collision physics, but otherwise, they won’t be affected by the physics engine. When the flow of time resumes, the device breaks down and is rendered unusable, meaning that time travel will not be seen anywhere else in Titanfall 2. It’s a clever way of keeping mechanics fresh in a game, by ensuring that no single element dominates. Having reached the halfway mark of Titanfall 2 and with Gabriel Dropout in the books, I turn my attention next to Yuki Yuna is a Hero: Washio Sumi Chapter‘s first part. I will also be dropping by at the third episode mark for Saekano and at least one other anime in the future, as well as a brief talk about the Eddie Detachment DLC for Valkyria Chronicles.

At the halfway point, Titanfall 2 demonstrates why it is considered to be one of the most entertaining shooters of 2016: 2016 turned out to be a fantastic year for first person shooters, and the innovations seen in Titanfall 2‘s campaign make it capable of delivering new surprises in every level. This is especially important in campaigns – repetition diminishes the sense of urgency and accomplishment, turning missions into a long exercise in patience. In Titanfall 2, players want to push further to explore the dynamic between BT and Cooper, but also to learn of Major Anderson’s mission and its significance. Of course, Titanfall 2 reinforces the fact that players should continue to adapt and think in an open-minded fashion to complete the game: by the end of “Cause and Effect”, the device Cooper has found malfunctions shortly after he learns of the Fold Weapon. There is no more opportunity to explore the rest of Typhon in two distinct time periods, and so, Cooper must fall back on his training in order to survive. With an exceptionally powerful arsenal and the jump kit at Cooper’s disposal, however, players do not feel like they are losing an ability, and instead, are left to anticipate whatever challenges await them in the Titanfall 2‘s remaining missions.