The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Gameplay

Tom Clancy’s The Division: Returning to take back New York

“The good old days are now.” –Tom Clancy

The Division‘s premise is well-known by this point in time: during Black Friday, a smallpox epidemic caused by contaminated bank notes brings New York to its knees, forcing the activation of the stay-behind units, known as the Division, to help law enforcement and emergency responders, the Joint Task Force, restore order. After arriving in Brooklyn, players assist the Joint Task Force (JTF) in securing supplies and a precinct station before meeting with another agent, Faye Lau. Players make their way to Manhattan Island and arrive at the James A. Farley Post Office Building, which has been repurposed as a make-shift command center. Severely understaffed and under-equipped, players retrieve medical expert Jessica Kandel, engineer Paul Rhodes and Captain Roy Benitez by fighting through the Madison Square Garden, subway tunnels and Lincoln Tunnel entrance, respectively. With the base of operations slowly restored, players can begin exploring other parts of Manhattan to help Kandel work out how the smallpox epidemic started, keep the facilities operational for Rhodes and aid Benitez in security-related details. I am, in short, back to where I was when The Division‘s open beta ended last February. In my original discussion, I remarked that my decision to buy The Division would be determined by whether or not there was sufficient content in the game once it launched; post-launch, it was shown that The Division has a solid narrative that creates a highly immersive, compelling background for the game. While The Division is a loot-based shooter, the amount of minor details that went into explaining how the smallpox epidemic came to be is nothing short of impressive, and so, once the price point became suitable, I decided to pick the game up a year and a half after its launch.

My current plan is to play through The Division as a solo player – my interests in The Division was largely in its atmosphere and setting, rather than the Dark Zone and any endgame content. There’s a substantial campaign to The Division, and this can be completed alone, allowing me to explore the empty streets of Manhattan at my own leisure. It is in solo play that the enormity of what’s hit Manhattan becomes apparent: taking on missions on my own means being forced to rely on my wit to assess a situation and determine how to best handle it. Escaping pinches boils down to reflexes and good use of gear. It’s a thrilling solitary experience, giving players the sense of just how challenging the process of dealing with the aftermath of a large-scale epidemic in a first-world nation is. Solo play through the campaign offers a more authentic experience, and I’ve experienced only moderate difficulty in making my way though things thus far – after readjusting to The Division‘s unique control scheme, things have progressed relatively smoothly, and I’ve finished off all of the major missions available during the open beta. This sets me up for continuing the process of upgrading all of the wings in the base of operations to access all of the different talents and abilities available, all the while diving deeper into Manhattan and uncovering the cause for the smallpox epidemic seen in The Division, as well as what caused the first group of Division agents to disappear.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • During the open beta, I spawned in at level four and was already on Manhattan. However, in the completed game, players start out with an MP5 and a pistol on Brooklyn. After ISAC, the player’s AI assistant, walks them through the tutorial for the basics, players can meet up with JTF forces at a local safehouse and undertake their first few missions. The streets of Manhattan are rather monotonous to traverse, and safehouses allow for quick travel across the island.

  • The first few missions of The Division introduce players to the different types of missions available in the game. They aren’t very diverse with respect to what they entail: main missions will involve entering a subterranean or closed off area to clear off hordes of enemies before defeating a boss. Side missions and encounters will involve completing tasks in a set amount of time, defending supplies or a JTF commander, rescuing hostages or investigating missing persons. Enemies are similarly limited in variety. This is a longstanding shortcoming in The Division, but I’m okay with this aspect, since the game makes up for this with its world-building elements.

  • Unlike first person shooters, where health is easily acquired as pick-ups or regenerates automatically, The Division is a cover-based shooter, where players must hide behind cover and strategically use it to win firefights. Careful, controlled bursts of automatic weapon fire and retreating behind cover to reload, or moving from cover to cover improves survivability. Here, I begin the precinct siege mission, which involves clearing out a police installation and taking it back so the JTF can use it as a headquarters.

  • The skyline of Manhattan is visible in the distance, as is the Brooklyn Bridge. Once the boss to the precinct siege mission is beaten, players will travel over to Manhattan, where the game proper begins. Bosses in The Division are characterised by their yellow health bars and an additional layer of armour on top, which must be stripped away before any damage can be dealt to them. I’ve found that engaging bosses at longer ranges with a modicum of patience is ideal – once the armour is gone, bosses go down with almost the same ease as standard opponents.

  • As I make my way to the base of operations, Christmas lights and decorations can be seen everywhere. The Division is set in the months following Black Friday; this is usually the Friday after Thanksgiving in the United States, leading into the Christmas season, and as a result, one of the things that I was looking to do was play The Division during Christmas, when folks have set up all of their Christmas decorations.

  • Christmas is a busy season, and can be quite stressful, as well, especially for folks who are preparing for the arrival of relatives. However, in my family, Christmas has always been a highly relaxing time of year: we’ve never gone overboard with preparations and have placed greater emphasis on togetherness over how grandiose the events are. This Christmas, we have no plans for travelling, having already visited Japan and Hong Kong during May, and so, I look forwards to a quiet Christmas that I will likely spend reading, gaming and if the weather is favourable, taking a bit of a walk in the nearby hills.

  • On the topic of weather, one of the best features of The Division is the dynamic time of day and weather systems: snowfall and fog can change the atmosphere, as well as forcing players to modify their play-style to accommodate shifting weather patterns, while lighting differences between day and night give locales a completely different feel.

  • We’re now a mere fifteen days from Christmas, and therefore, Christmas festivities have become much more visible. Yesterday morning, I visited the Edelweiß Village, a speciality market selling German, Dutch, Polish and Scandinavian foods, as well as crafts. I’ve long been interested in aspects of German culture and took all of the German language courses during my time in high school, visiting the Edelweisß village on a field trip, where one of the requirements was to order a complete lunch auf Deutsch.

  • During the evening, I had dinner at a newly renovated Chinese restaurant; there was a special five course meal that was superbly prepared, featuring pumpkin-and-salmon soup, lobster salad, triple-A Alberta Beef with a black pepper sauce, white-cut chicken and sweet and sour pork. This restaurant’s cooking was superb, bringing to mind the sort of quality I recall enjoying at an upper-scale restaurant at a hotel in Shanghai some years back. I’ve heard that in Cantonese cooking, the freshness of ingredients can be inferred by how much spice and seasoning is used in a dish; last night’s ingredients were definitely fresh given the minimal (but well-adjusted) use of spices and seasonings.

  • I spent most of today doing my Christmas shopping and are finished for the year; this is perhaps one of the advantages of being a free agent, in that I don’t have to buy something for a significant other. A South Street Burger also opened at the local mall, so we had a chance to try their grill burgers: they’re definitely larger and more flavourful than conventional fast food burgers, with fresher ingredients. I ended up combining maple syrup with jalapeño peppers to create a uniquely-tasking burger, and once lunch ended, I proceeded to finish my shopping.

  • The malls were not particularly crowded today, despite it being quite close to Christmas, making the shopping process rather straightforwards. Back in The Division, I’ve returned to the Madison Square Garden to rescue Jessica Kandel. I think I was equipped with the M4 rifle and MP5 on my first play through during the open beta, but here, I’ve swapped out the MP5 for the RPK light machine gun. I would have preferred to have a good marksman weapon on hand, as well, as this would have made taking on the boss a bit more straightforwards.

  • Admittedly, one of the reasons why I initially was not keen on The Division (besides that price tag), was that I would need to go back through and do all of these missions again. However, playing through them again proved to be a different experience. Inspection of my HUD shows that here, I’ve got the ballistic shield ability equipped with proximity scan. During my original play-through during the open beta, I had only the proximity scan slot open. Despite being the first ability available, proximity scan remains immensely useful well into the late game, being able to pick out the location of different threats.

  • The other ability I have equipped here is a ballistic shield that blocks incoming damage, while limiting players to their sidearms. I’ve personally only found limited use for it, but the ability is fantastic for situations where there is not much cover, and players who improve their sidearm performance can perform very well with a ballistic shield.

  • Being armed with an LMG is actually quite useful for a boss fight. I normally run with assault rifles in The Division for their general versatility; LMGs can hit quite hard and have a good firing rate, becoming more accurate as they are fired, while marksman rifles can deal bonus headshot damage. Shotguns are capable of one-shot killing enemies at close ranges, and PDWs have the highest probability of dealing critical damage to enemies, but are similarly limited to close ranges.

  • After rescuing Kandel, the next mission I did was the subway morgue, where the goal was to find Rhodes. I’ve featured a fair number of screenshots during my talk on The Division‘s open beta, so there won’t be too many more screenshots of this level here. With this being said, the level hasn’t changed too much since the beta, and one of the other elements of The Division that stands out is that interiors of buildings, tunnels sewers and other areas are incredibly detailed.

  • Cleaners are quite entertaining to fight, since they carry large, flammable tanks on their backs that can be ignited for massive damage. Here, I deal with Benchley a second time: he’s armed with a flamethrower that has more range than those of the other Cleaners, but keeping him at bay and returning fire made this mission a straightforwards one to beat. At this point in the beta, I already had a marksman rifle, but lacking one, I improvised with an LMG.

  • The Division‘s open beta did not feature the Lincoln Tunnel checkpoint mission, which unlocks the security wing at the base of operations when completed: I visited this site for the first time and found a sea of abandoned vehicles. In reality, the Lincoln Tunnels are one of the most busy traffic links from Manhattan to New Jersey and was opened in 1937. It is considered to be a high risk target for terrorists owing to how much traffic moves through it, and in The Division, it is how the JTF have managed to ferry supplies into Manhattan to help recovery efforts.

  • The medical wing provides players with abilities and talents that improve survivability, while the tech wing offers upgrades for their skills. The security wing provides players access to better weapons. All of the wings require a total of 4000 supply points to unlock, and these can be accrued by playing main missions, as well as finishing encounters. In general, main missions and side missions are the best way to gain experience points for levelling up, while encounters offer much less experience. I’ll only do encounters if they’re en route to a main or side mission to save time.

  • At high settings, The Division doesn’t look too different than on medium, which is what I was playing on during the open beta. An upgraded GPU has allowed me to push the game a little and gain more frame rates: my old GPU could only run the game at 40 FPS, but I’ve had no trouble maintaining a steady 60 FPS at 1080p with my current GPU. I make my way through the tunnel here, admiring the water effects on the road surface as I push closer to the floodgate.

  • Finch is equipped with a sniper rifle here, and despite being two levels lower than myself, proved to be a challenge to fight because I did not have my own long-range solution. I eventually closed the distance using the RPK to suppress him and managed to best him. For The Division, I will likely write about the game every ten levels and at other interesting milestones, and with this comment, the post comes to an end. Upcoming posts will include a talk on Wake Up, Girls! New Chapter! now that we’re past the three-quarters mark, and a pair of posts on some additional content in Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. In addition, Battlefield 1‘s Turning Tides DLC is releasing the first two of its new maps tomorrow, so I’m looking forwards to seeing how the new maps and weapons play out.

With the journey projected to last quite a few hours, I look forwards to seeing what The Division‘s campaign has to offer most: at the end game, I may swing by the Dark Zone to try my hand at procuring better gear for kicks, but at the end of the day, I’m largely here to dive into a world that is simultaneously intriguing and terrifying, working towards uncovering the mystery and exploring what is probably the most detailed incarnation of Manhattan in gaming. Coupled with the game’s unique UI and AR-like elements, The Division‘s campaign and atmospherics are easily its strongest points. The game is presently still being expanded upon and patched; one of the recent things I’ve heard is that some of the end-game events and activities have been modified to be more accessible for solo players, and if this proves to be true, it would be quite entertaining to come back once I’ve hit level thirty and see how I do on my own against the enemies of the Dark Zone, as well as some of the more involved challenge missions. In the meantime, it’s time to continue the campaign in The Division: it’s been great to continue on the journey that I started during the open beta.

Enter The Matrix Review and Reflection

“All I’ve ever asked from this world is that when it’s my time, let it be for something, and not of something.” –Ghost

Released in May 2003, Enter The Matrix was developed by Shiny Entertainment and intended to line up with the release of The Matrix Reloaded, providing further exposition for the events of the film. After Ghost and Niobe retrieve a package containing a message from Zion that provides information about an impending Machine attack. They coordinate a meeting, but first, stop the Agents from moving Axel at the airport. The captains of each Zion ship meet to discuss the best course of action in the Matrix’s sewers, but when Agents interrupt the meeting, the rebels escape into the sewers. Niobe and Ghost move through the sewers and manage to escape, assisting other rebels along the way. They encounter the Keymaker, who saves them from an Agent and reveals that Neo must be given a special key. However, Cain and Abel make off with the key; Ghost and Niobe pursue the two into the Merovingian’s Chateau and recover the key. They later join in on the Freeway chase to assist Morpheus, and agree to destroy the power plant after the Keymaker reveals Neo’s path. Niobe and Ghost later receive a request from the Oracle, and after their conversation, must fight off the hordes of Agent Smiths, making their way down a half-constructed office tower and through Chinatown. Escaping back into the real world, Niobe pilots the Logos through the tunnels of the real while Ghost holds off the sentinels long enough for the Logos to use its EMP against them. Long considered to be an incomplete game and an attempt to cash in on the Matrix brand, Enter The Matrix nonetheless remains a fantastic game in my books for being able to augment on The Matrix Reloaded‘s events.

The biggest strength in Enter The Matrix is the game’s ability to capture the atmosphere of The Matrix, allowing players to fight inside The Matrix to very nearly the same extent that was seen in the movies. In doing so, players would become immersed in a fully-fledged experience that gave the same sense of exhilaration that Neo first experienced upon understanding what the Matrix is – the gameplay in Enter The Matrix is surprisingly sophisticated, giving players plenty of martial arts options against their opponents. Using a context-based system, Enter The Matrix captures the intricacies of fighting in the movies to give the sense that players have entered the Matrix. Supplementing the complex and fully-fledged fighting system is a diverse arsenal of weapons, ranging from sidearms to anti-materiel rifles that, in conjunction with bullet time, enables players to survive even the most unfavourable situations. Featuring complete cutscenes directed by the Wachowski brothers, Enter The Matrix adds over an hour of new live-action footage that augments the experience conferred by The Matrix Reloaded. The sum of these elements together make Enter The Matrix a superb game that is the perfect companion to The Matrix Reloaded; while the mechanics and visuals have not withstood the test of time, the game still handles quite well and is a thrill to play. Enter The Matrix is about the closest one can get to emulating the badass feats seen within the Matrix films, and this is a game that does a remarkably good job of bringing this experience to life.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The first thing to note is that screenshots from Enter The Matrix will appear much darker than those from other games. Most of the events in Enter The Matrix are set at night or in large interiors, with the exception of a few missions. The first mission involves visiting a central post office to recover a package from the Osiris. Enemies in this mission are lightly armed, with only the .380 Colt Mustang, the weakest sidearm in the game. By default, Ghost is equipped with a pair of P229 Sig Sauer pistols.

  • Most of the enemies in the post office are weak enough so that they can be dealt with using martial arts alone; this is the perfect time to become familiarised with the fighting system in Enter the Matrix: standard attacks consist of kicks and punches, as well as throws. However, additional commands and contexts allow Ghost and Niobe to execute more complex moves, while the use of Focus allow them to hit harder and move faster than normal.

  • Focus is a limited and powerful asset: the consequence of being aware of the truth, its effects in Enter The Matrix are to slow time down, allowing players to dodge bullets, run on walls, and jump greater distances. Here, I’ve managed to find the package and are engaging in Enter The Matrix‘s equivalent of The Matrix‘s lobby shootout. I may not have the M-16 or 870 MCS, but the MP5 and Colt RO635 9mm SMG, in conjunction with focus, are more than enough to deal with the cops that come into the lobby. A subtle but clever touch is that shooting at the columns will cause their marble cladding to become damage and come off, as seen in The Matrix.

  • The music in Enter the Matrix is solid, conveying a sense of urgency as players make their way across the city rooftops to the hard line, the way out of the Matrix. Despite the game’s low texture resolution and primitive lighting, there’s a charm about the graphics that make Enter the Matrix a distinct instalment in The Matrix.

  • The airport mission is one of my favourites in the game for the level design and set pieces. Police SWAT units become introduced here, and they’re more powerful adversaries than the cops seen in the previous missions, being armed with superior equipment and armour. The best tactic for dealing with them is to close the distance using Focus and disarming them, then beating the tar out of them using martial arts. Notice the Pentium IV advertisement on the wall to the left: computer processors have advanced to the point where the i5 inside my MacBook Pro is upwards of 300 percent more powerful than the fastest Pentium IV processors of the day.

  • The fight against the SWAT helicopter represents the first boss fight of the game, occasionally dropping SWAT units to fight players. The best trick for beating it is to use Focus and aim slightly above the SWAT helicopter using the MP5. MP5 ammunition can be replenished from attacking SWAT units. Once the helicopter is downed, players enter the monorail tunnels and will encounter the armoured military SWAT, the second-most lethal enemies in the games only to the Agents. Attacking them with weapons is usually a waste of ammunition, but martial arts will work well against them.

  • The revolving restaurant section of the airport requires a bit of patience, and once all enemies are cleared, the goal is to climb on top a piano and wait for the ladder to swing around. I’ve been to several revolving restaurants in my time, including the one in the Calgary Tower and CN Tower (brunch at the former, and a spaghetti dinner at the latter); they’re usually placed in towers so patrons have a nice view of their surroundings as they enjoy their meals, but the location at an airport is less likely to provide good scenery.

  • The Barrett M82A1 .50-calibre anti-materiel rifle is the single most powerful weapon in Enter the Matrix, being able to neutralise any enemy with one headshot. It is used for an incredibly long-range shot against the private jet that’s carrying Axel to take the tire out and prevent it from taking off. Unlike its real-world equivalent, the M82A1 in Enter the Matrix is mislabeled as the M95 and has an eighteen-round magazine, which doesn’t make much sense considering the size of each bullet; the real M95 is a bullpup rifle.

  • One of the SWAt will drop an SG-552 rifle, which is probably the best all-around gun in Enter the Matrix. Blessed with a high firing rate, pinpoint accuracy, high damage and a large magazine, the weapon is completely inaccurate against its real-world counterpart – the SG-552 is the carbine form of the SG-550 assault rifle and is chambered for the 5.56 mm NATO round. However, in Enter the Matrix, it is so powerful it can blow the Agent helicopter apart on very short order. The PC controls are a bit stiff, so it took me a bit longer to move into position and open fire.

  • Aside from the airport, the sewers were also a fun set of missions, giving a sense of just how labyrinthine the sewers of the Matrix are. The close quarters environments in the sewer tunnels make the Mossberg 590 (known as the Entry Shotgun in-game) a viable option: the high damage makes it well-suited for encounters with Sewer SWAT, which are second only to the armoured military SWAT in lethality.

  • The sewers are relatively linear, but there are a few places where some ancient machinery must be destroyed to allow progress, or else similarities in the scenery make it easy to get lost. There are some sections in the sewer that have impressive design: the sub-section of the level “Breathing Room” takes players through a room filled with large fans on a platform over a deep passageway. The fans can be shot at and destroyed.

  • Enter the Matrix was the first game I played that involved a large sewer system possibly surpassing Tokyo’s G-Cans system (known formally as the “Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel”). Since then, games like Metro and Wolfenstein II have come close to replicating the experience, but there’s no substitute for the original.

  • This is one of the few places in Enter the Matrix where it’s possible to use the M16A2 rifle, a good all-around weapon that hits harder than the MP5. There is the option to dual-wield weapons, as well: doubling the firepower of weaker weapons, it’s called “two fisting” in Enter the Matrix, and while I referred to the simultaneous use of two weapons as such after playing Enter the MatrixHalo would lead me to call the process “dual wielding” – “two fisting” apparently refers to the practise of holding an alcoholic beverage in each hand, and in gaming, quickly fell out of usage in favour of “dual wielding”.

  • During the trek through the sewers, players must defend fellow Rebels against hostile forces, and allowing any of them to die will result in an instant game over. The mission itself doesn’t depict the foggy caverns of the sewers seen in the preview image for Malachi and Bane, a sniper mission where players are provided with the HK33, an assault rifle fitted with a heavy barrel, bipod and sniper optics to act as a marksman rifle. Using Focus makes it much easier to hit difficult targets before they can damage the rebels.

  • If one were to click on these screenshots and look at the dates, they would find that most of them actually date back to 2015: at this point in time, I was entering my second year of graduate school and during the autumn term, had no classes, allowing me to focus entirely on my thesis paper (I’d already finished off most of the implementation to my project during the summer). As such, I had a bit more free time than previously, and spent some of that time gaming. Of course, procrastination is why I did not write about Enter the Matrix earlier.

  • The Chateau mission entails a new gameplay style: inhabited by the Merovingian’s vampires and dobermen, enemies here can only be killed by driving a wooden stake through them after melee combat. Players will also find a crossbow for launching wooden bolts, but these are quite rare, making it imperative to save them for boss fights. Firearms in this mission are ineffectual for permanently stopping vampires and dobermen, but they can be used to buy some space.

  • The stairwell where Enter the Matrix‘s infamous Chateau fight happens has been replicated in full and in fantastic detail, but unlike the film, there’s no fighting here. Instead, players will enter the Chateau’s basement for a fight with Cujo, head of the dobermen. Once beaten, players move towards finding the Keymaker and also encounter Cain and Abel, two exiles who will continue to malign players unless kicked against the prison cells, where prisoners will hold on to them and buy players enough time to make their way out of the level. A vehicle chase involving the Twins soon follows: I’ve chosen not to depict any of the vehicular levels in this post: while immensely fun (Ghost has an MP5 that can turn any vehicle into a pile of flaming wreckage in seconds), the PC version has a few graphical bugs.

  • If Enter the Matrix was to be redone in a modern game engine like Frostbite 3 or even The Division‘s Snowdrop engine, it would definitely bring the Matrix to life. Such a game would keep the narrative and two campaigns as in the original, but levels could be redesigned to be even more immersive, making full use of modern rendering and visuals to really capture environments within the Matrix. If such a game did come out, I would buy it in a heartbeat. Of course, they’d have to fix the weapons so they’re more faithful to their real-world counterparts and add better bonus arena modes, but other than that, it’d be a title worth playing through again.

  • Apparently, the transformer field was the toughest level in Enter the Matrix; the close quarters maze and swarms of SWAT units made it easy to make a wrong turn and die. However, players also are provided with a halo-alkane launcher, which fires canisters of oxygen-depriving gases that are ostensibly used for firefighting but also asphyxiates anyone who breathes the gas in. It’s highly effective, and in conjunction with the Striker shotgun (called the Street Sweeper in-game), allows careful players to pick their way through this labyrinth. Following the goal tracker is essential, as is backing up if lost.

  • The nuclear waste sector was one of my favourite parts of Enter the Matrix, being filled with bottomless chasms and massive fuel tanks that go off with a large explosion when shot. Here, I’m wielding the G36 with a beta-C drum magazine. The weapon is rare, but quite effective: it’s second only to the SG-552 in terms of effectiveness and the strategy guide suggests that its lower rate of fire allows it to be more efficient with ammunition. The cover system in Enter the Matrix was a bit tricky to use, so I ended up making extensive use of Focus to get through most parts; if Enter the Matrix were ever to be remastered, the cover system should also be improved slightly.

  • Ghost will need to provide covering fire for Niobe once he reaches the control room, fighting off waves of SWAT units. This mission is quite demanding, forcing players to switch from the role of being a precise sniper to a close-quarters brawler, and the UMP-45, which was near-useless in the Chateau mission, is actually quite good for dealing with SWAT units here. Eventually, Niobe will reach the top of the reactor and prepare the bomb that will blow the nuclear power plant to pieces to facilitate Neo’s meeting with the Architect.

  • I’ve seen a lot of complaints from contemporary reviewers and conformists from Tango-Victor-Tango that the game is really an unfinished beta. Interviews with the staff reveal that the game was indeed rushed into deployment in order to coincide with The Matrix Reloaded‘s theatrical première, and while I concede that textures in some part of the game are plainly placeholders, such as the muzzle on the HK33. However, I’ve never gotten stuck on walls or run into any collision detection issues on my end despite having completed the game on at least five different occasions.

  • Even if the game was rushed, it’s evident that a great deal of effort was directed towards making the game as authentic to the Matrix as possible: interviews with the developers and Anthony Wong, who plays Ghost, shows this effort, which I definitely appreciate. Here, I fight an Agent and are tasked with killing him in order to buy enough time to escape – Agents can only be killed in special circumstances, and here, the Agent is defeated by kicking him into a server cluster, electrocuting him. Agents normally cannot be defeated and will make short work of Ghost and Niobe, but in the City Rooftops level, I’ve managed to kill an agent by kicking him off the side of a ledge.

  • Like Neo, who must fight Seraph to gain an audience with the Oracle, players must also prove their worth by defeating Seraph. This fight represents a turning point in the game: if players succeed, they will meet the Oracle and learn more about what’s to come, while failing that will send them back to the Logos. Of course, I wasn’t content to miss out on a few missions, so I sparred Seraph with a high intensity and managed to beat him.

  • The last two missions of Enter the Matrix have players escaping from Agent Smith after speaking with the Oracle. Ghost narrowly manages to escape the Industrial Hallway and into a half-built skyscraper: Agent Smith presented a challenge even to Neo in The Matrix Reloaded, so there’s not a ghost of a chance that Ghost can fight Agent Smith on even footing. The only focus is to keep running, following the goal tracker until the end of the level is reached.

  • The last mission is set in Chinatown, and there’s a siu aap (roast duck) shop visible on the left. Chinatowns, or districts with a high population of Han Chinese are located around the world; the oldest Chinatown is located in Manila in the Philippines, and the Chinatown back home is largest in the province, featuring the continent’s largest Cultural Centre. I visit every weekend, since my dojo is here, and there are some specialty shops in the area. While folks I know go to Chinatown for the dim sum, the best places are actually located outside of Chinatown.

  • Besides police officiers, the other enemy in this level as Agent Smith. Players will pick up the Milkor MGL, a 40mm grenade launcher that deals massive damage. It only appears here, can kill players if they’re careless and appears a bit too late to be useful against the armoured military SWAT seen earlier. However, against the hordes of Agent Smiths relentlessly pursuing players, it can be used to buy some breathing room.

  • My first desktop computer had a 600 MHz AMD Model 3 Spitfire processor with 64 MB of RAM and 15 GB of hard drive space. Enter the Matrix required a minimum 800 MHz processor, 128 MB of RAM and 4.3 GB of storage, recommending at least a 1.2 GHz processor and 256 MB of RAM in conjunction with 64 MB of dedicated graphics memory. As such, I stuck with the GameCube version of Enter the Matrix initially, but since then, I’ve upgraded computers several times, allowing me to go through the PC version.

  • Of course, uninstalling the game would allow me to save 4.3 GB of space, but on today’s hard drive, 4.3 GB isn’t too much to worry about, and as time permits, I should go back and beat the Niobe campaign, as well. The end goal of the Chinatown mission is to reach the church in the distance, where the hard line is located. This allows red-pills to exit the Matrix, and while rebels will disappear once out, the game doesn’t depict this process.

  • The last mission for Ghost involves shooting at Sentinels while Niobe pilots the Logos deep into the tunnels of the real. It’s actually quite dull, and before long, the Sentinels will spawn a tow bomb. Keeping it at bay with the Logos’ guns will end the mission and the campaign. While I would love to recommend Enter the Matrix, chances are that the game’s going to be quite difficult to find now. I’ve heard rumours of a Matrix film is in the works, and while there’s been very little information on the project since rumours began circulating in March this year, if it results in a new game being made, players may finally have a Matrix game made with modern-era technology. For now, though, this brings my reflections of Enter the Matrix to a close.

The biggest draw about Enter The Matrix was its ability to really immerse players in the Matrix universe. Whether it be the gun-fu, bullet-time combat or setpieces, the game has definitely recreated the atmosphere and tenour seen within the Matrix. The game has no shortage of content, featuring two full campaign missions, in conjunction with a hacking game that lets players learn more about the Matrix universe and even modify the way the game itself plays. I first played through Enter The Matrix on a GameCube during summer break years back; I initially had the PC version, but lacked a PC with the requirements to run the game. The title impressed me, and I developed a stronger interest in the Matrix, as well as its philosophical underpinnings about reality, existence, and yin and yang. Few works have since succeeded in leading me to contemplate these things, and subsequently, when I built a more powerful PC, the time had come to give the game another go. It’s definitely aged from a mechanical and technical perspective, but besides itself, there are only two other games: The Matrix Online, and The Path Of Neo. Of these games, The Matrix Online is no longer playable since the servers shut down, and The Path of Neo lacks the same finesse and polish from what I’ve seen. That leaves Enter The Matrix, and from a personal perspective, it’s the definitive Matrix game to experience.

Call of Duty: WWII- A Reflection on the Open Beta

“Hot today, forgotten tomorrow. I’m not buying anything.” –James Marshall

Activision has stated that development on Call of Duty: WWII began long before negative reception to the franchise’s shift into future warfare began. The full title will release on November 3, and during the last weekend of September, an open beta was available for Steam players to try out. Offering five maps and four game modes, the beta was an opportunity for players to test the game out prior to its release. After installing the beta initially, I found myself unable to run it; the game would not load, and it was not until I reinstalled the title where the game would open. After entering my first few matches, it became apparent that the game has not been optimised fully for PC yet: frame rates dropped, the game stuttered, and death followed. When frame rates stablised, I began my own boots-on-the-ground experience, making use of the different divisions to get a feel for the gameplay. Call of Duty has always been more about small maps and fast-paced combat, as well as kill-streak rewards over the slower, more methodical and large-scale gameplay that characterises Battlefield 1. Maps feel like closed-off sets designed to give the sense of a well-designed paintball arena, rather than the wide-open spaces of Battlefield 1, and the numerous corners and hallways encourage a very aggressive, forward style of gameplay that rewards reflexes over strategy. Filled with details, from aircraft flying overhead and artillery, to muddy and damaged set elements, maps definitely exude a WWII-like atmospheric that, in conjunction with traditional movement systems, looks to return Call of Duty back to its roots. However, well-designed set pieces and premise can only carry a game so far, and the major deciding factor in whether or not a game is worth playing lies with its gameplay and handling.

During moments where the Call of Duty: WWII open beta was running with optimal frame rates, the game feels modestly smooth, although the Infinity Ward engine is definitely feeling dated. Movement is a little jagged and uneven, feeling somewhat sluggish. In a game where the goal is to move around in a high-paced environment and play the game aggressively to score points, the movement system is not particularly conducive of this particular play style, as I found myself getting stuck in geometry on more than one occasion, leading to death. Inconsistencies in movement and hit detection meant that the Call of Duty: WWII open beta felt like one protracted match on Prise de Tahure. I was dying to players coming from unexpected angles and places. Exacerbated by lag, I would open fire on players first, only for them to whip around and instantly nail me, suggesting that I had in fact been firing at air when my client put a player on screen. Performance issues aside, the chaotic nature of Call of Duty multiplayer environments and an emphasis on twitch reflexes with a high RPM weapon over finess means that Call of Duty: WWII‘s multiplayer certainly isn’t for me. This beta reminds me of my advancing age – long ago, I enjoyed close quarters combat for the rush it brought. With age comes decreasing reflexes, and I’m not able to keep up with the whipper-snappers out there now. The kind of gameplay I might have preferred a few years ago no longer feels fun to me compared to methodically picking off distant enemies and moving cover-to-cover.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Call of Duty: WWII introduces a new game mode called “War”, which is a close-quarters objectives-based match. On the “Operation Breakout” map seen in the beta, Allied Forces must capture a German outpost and then build a bridge, allowing their tanks to destroy an ammunition depot. German forces must prevent the Allies from succeeding. The game mode is admittedly similar to Battlefront 2‘s Galactic Assault, albeit a much smaller-scale version.

  • I’m not sure if this were the case in earlier Call of Duty multiplayer games, but in Call of Duty: WWII, there are different classes players can spawn in as, from the jack-of-all-trades infantry class, to the more nimble airborne class that emphasises high speed gameplay. There’s also an armoured class that can equip heavy weapons, the mountain class that is suited for long-range sniping, and the expeditionary class that dominates in close quarters.

  • Here, I equip the Bren LMG, Perrine’s weapon of choice from Strike Witches. However, despite its WWII-setting, I do not feel that Call of Duty: WWII is able to capture the Strike Witches atmospheric and aesthetic anywhere nearly as effectively as does Battlefield 1, despite the fact that the latter is set during World War One. This further stems from the very static, arena-like maps as opposed to the larger, more natural-feeling maps seen in Battlefield 1.

  • I’ve heard folks complain that the STG-44’s sight to be completely inauthentic: while it is true that modern electronic red dot sights with LEDs were developed during the 1970s, the concept of a reflex sight has been around since the 1900s. Earlier sights either depended on ambient light to function or else had a built-in light source whose operational time was constrained by limited battery life.

  • I only spent two hours in the Call of Duty: WWII open beta on account of a cold that saw me sleep most of the weekend that the beta was running, but I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on too much. By comparison, when I played through the Battlefront 2 beta last week, I had largely recovered and so, put in closer to nine hours over the Thanksgiving Long Weekend. During the moments where I was feeling a little better, I hopped into a few matches and found myself outplayed at every turn.

  • Averaging a KD ratio of less than 0.25 in almost all of my games, I’ve found the movement and handling in Call of Duty: WWII to be very poor. This is especially problematic, considering that Call of Duty: WWII is meant to be a fast-paced shooter where reflexes and high sensitivities are king: slow movements and aiming made it difficult to aim and fire, taking away from the run-and-gun style of play that Call of Duty emphasises.

  • I’ve heard that client-side modifications were widespread during the open beta, allowing people to one-shot other players with instant headshots, or else gain awareness of where all of the other players were. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I would prefer a hardware ban for folks caught cheating as Blizzard has implemented in Overwatch: this forces all but the most resourceful of cheaters with deep pockets to think twice before using tools to bolster their in-game performance.

  • On my end, I do not believe I encountered any cheaters. The biggest enemy ultimately ended up being the game performance itself: my hardware, while four years old, is no slouch with respect to performance. Nonetheless, I saw the game dip below 15 FPS during some moments, and I could only watch as other player lined up their sights and pasted my face into the walls. The lag, coupled with the fact that the beta did not even open made the Call of Duty: WWII‘s beta a little difficult to enjoy; the Battlefield 1 and Battlefront II betas were characterised by a straightforwards setup process where I activated the installer and then joined matches without any difficulty.

  • From a visual perspective, Call of Duty: WWII looks average at best, especially when compared with some of the other titles available. Textures are a bit dull, and lighting isn’t terribly complex: in fact, I feel that the graphical fidelity of Infinite Warfare and Modern Warfare: Remastered to be superior. While this is just a beta, Call of Duty: WWII does not inspire me to give the game a go, whereas Battlefront II‘s beta convinced me that, provided the loot crate system doesn’t completely suck, the game might merit a purchase shortly after launch.

  • I saw some footage of Cr1tikal playing through the closed beta a month ago, and recalled his use of incendiary shells in the expeditionary class. In his video, Cr1tikal criticises the map design, and ultimately, makes extensive use of the shotguns to squeak by in a match before switching over to mountain class briefly. I was hardly surprised by the expeditionary class’ efficacy with incendiary shotguns and found myself doing much better than I had in previous rounds.

  • Stationary weapons in multiplayer shooters are always a death-trap, leaving users exposed to attack from behind and snipers, but here, I use one of the mounted weapons to defeat another player from a distance. Despite the splintered wooden poles, shattered concrete bunkers, muddy ditches and remnants of sandbags, the maps in Call of Duty: WWII simply do not feel as though they are World War Two settings, but rather, feel like World War Two-themed settings.

  • The under-barrel grenade launcher in older Call of Duty games was counted the “n00b tube” for its ease of use. Under-barrel grenade launchers are gone in Call of Duty: WWII, but the incendiary shells of the expeditionary class are probably going to be regarded  as fulfilling a similar vein: despite dealing the same damage as a conventional shotgun shell, the incendiary shells apply damage over time by means of burning opponents hit, and because they replenish fully on death, they are an appealing weapon for beginning players who can gain a kill even after they are killed.

  • During my time in the beta, I did not hear any complaints about use of incendiary shells and so, like Cr1tikal, I used them during the later period of the open beta. I’ve heard that the release version of Call of Duty: WWII will see several changes, and one of the top-most changes proposed will be reducing the damage dealt by incendiary ammunition.

  • During one particularly lucky short, my pellets outright took out one opponent and burned another to land me a double kill. One feature in Call of Duty that I’ve never been fond of is the killstreak system, which rewards players purely based on how many kills they’ve gotten before dying. The most infamous killstreak bonus is the tactical nuke, which instantly wins a game for the team that the player triggers it on. Overall, I prefer Battlefront II‘s system, where playing the objective and actions helping teammates will unlock battle points that can be spent on perks.

  • Despite the closed, arena-like maps, the Operation Breakout map has long, open avenues that are well-suited for sniping. The Commonwealth rifle proved fun to use: it’s a one-hit kill bolt action rifle, and coming from the likes of Battlefield 1, where I’ve acclimatised to bolt-action rifles lacking a straight-pull bolt, this weapon wasn’t too far removed from my usual play-style. I never did get around to learning the performance attributes of the different weapons, and I didn’t make it far enough to unlock most weapons. Instead, I looted weapons from other players to give them a whirl.

  • Medals are earned in Call of Duty by performing specific actions or scoring kills in a particular manner. They will confer a boost in XP, and are similar to the ribbons of Battlefield, appearing at the top of the screen. I believe they were introduced in Black Ops II, although as mentioned earlier, I’m only vaguely aware of game mechanics in Call of Duty titles and I find the game engine to be quite out-dated.

  • Some folks have asserted that Call of Duty: WWII is a blatant rip-off of Battlefield 1 for featuring similar features, including the bayonet charge and for returning things to a World War setting. At the opposite end of the spectrum, others claim that Call of Duty: WWII will cause Battlefield 1 players to switch over on account of limitations in the latter’s gameplay. Quite honestly, while Call of Duty: WWII is quite unique in both game mechanics and time period, I found that I have more fun in Battlefield 1. After one particularly tough match, I returned to Battlefield 1 and perform considerably better than I did during the Call of Duty: WWII open beta.

  • My last match during the Call of Duty: WWII beta was spent in a match of domination with the airborne class and the starting M3 submachine gun. I attached the suppressor to it and snuck around the map to get kills. Capture points trade hands numerous times during domination, and one thing I noticed is that in Call of Duty: WWII, the submachine guns do not appear to have an improved hip-fire accuracy.

  • One of the most infamous constructs to come out of Call of Duty is the notion of a “360 no scope” and “quick scope” moves. While considered to be trick-shots with little practical advantages in a real game, folks on the internet suggest that people of middle school age take the move quite seriously and consider it a viable tactic. Regardless of whether or not this is true, one thing is for sure: until the PC version of Call of Duty: WWII is optimised, trick shots will be very difficult or even impossible to pull off.

  • After this match ended, I decided to call it a day and went back to sleep with the aim of fighting off my cold. Two weeks later, I’m back to my usual self, although an occasional cough continues to persist. I usually get sick twice a year: once before winter appears in full, and once before spring completely displaces winter weather. I’m hoping that this means winter is upon us; it’s certainly been colder as of late, although forecasts show pleasant weather over the next while. Overall, I would say that I had much more fun with the Battlefront II beta than this one, and while the campaign looks interesting, I’ve got no plans to purchase Call of Duty: WWII at the moment.

Playing through the beta reaffirms the reasons behind my decision in not playing Call of Duty multiplayers, but having tried the Call of Duty: WWII open beta, there are a few things that Call of Duty does well; my favourite is the instant spawning back into a match after death. The quick time to kill is also great for high-speed engagements, even if it is hampered slightly by the movement systems. However, compared to Battlefield, which has a better movement system and larger maps that accommodate all styles of gameplay, I cannot say that I’m won over into Call of Duty‘s multiplayer aspects. The single-player elements are a different story: until Battlefield 1 introduced its war stories, Call of Duty games had consistently more entertaining campaigns, and I am looking forwards to seeing just what Call of Duty: WWII‘s story entails. From what has been shown so far, it’s a return to the European front in the later days of the Second World War, featuring a modernised take on the D-Day invasion. Overall, I am not particularly inclined to purchase Call of Duty: WWII close to launch, or at any point soon, for its multiplayer content. If the single-player campaign is impressive, I might purchase the game some years later during a Steam Sale – the game certainly does not feel like it is able to offer the value that would make buying it at full price worthwhile, but I’m always game for a good war story, even if it is a shorter one.