The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Gameplay

Metro Exodus: Crossing the Volga by Winter

“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape. Something waits beneath it; the whole story doesn’t show.” –Andrew Wyeth

After the events of Metro: Last Light, Artyom grows weary of the infighting amongst the Metro. Abandoning the Spartan Order, he makes frequent excursions to the irradiated surface to listen for signs of communication from the outside world using a radio. His wife, Anna, and her father, Colonel Miller, grow tired of his insistence. When Artyom is captured by Hansa soldiers on one excursion and Anna is captured, Artyom sets off to rescue her and in the process, manages to destroy a radio jammer, revealing that humanity had not gone extinct. The two manage to capture a Hansa train and take it out of Moscow with the Spartan Order, knowing that Hansa will execute them for discovering the truth. As it turns out, during the war, the Russian government decided to jam transmission in Moscow and feign destruction to stop the destruction. After reaching a bridge crossing the Volga River, Artyom disembarks in search of a way to lower the bridge across. He encounters religious fanatics, and rescues a mother and daughter. After Artyom secures a train car and speaking with the religious leader, they cross the Volga River and head towards the Mount Yamantau complex, where radio transmissions suggest to Miller that the government remnants may be taking refuge. This is Metro Exodus after its first quarter: while the game begins conventionally, with Artyom wandering through the ruins of Moscow and its cavernous metro system, after Artyom frees Anna from Hansa captivity and steals a train, Metro Exodus brings players to quasi-open world. This represents the first time where players are free to explore a space to the extent that Metro had envisioned when the Metro: Last Light ten-minute demo was released six years previously; a far cry from the claustrophobic tunnels and narrow streets of Moscow, the level of freedom and opportunity to explored a landscape dotted with ruins makes Metro Exodus a first in the series, providing players with a refreshing new experience.

Besides an increased degree of freedom, Metro Exodus also differs from its predecessors in that the old inventory system has been given a dramatic overhaul. Pre-war grade bullets no longer act as a currency, and ammunition found throughout the game now is merely ammunition. The inventory management system has been expanded so players can craft resources depending on necessity, making use of metal scraps and chemicals to create various items. Vital elements such as filters and medical kits, plus reserve ammunition for the Tikhar pneumatic rifle and throwing knives can be crafted on the fly. Dedicated workbenches allow for repair of damaged gear, cleaning of dirtied weapons and crafting of powerful items (ammunition and explosives), but they are much rarer. The more involved inventory management system comes into play with a more flexible weapons attachment and modification system: while Metro Exodus is like its predecessors in having weapons modifications, it also provides the means to change out weapons in the field, allowing players to very quickly customise their weapons to fit whatever their needs are. The basic revolver, for instance, is a powerful close quarters weapon, but with a stock, long barrel and optics, becomes a makeshift sniper rifle. The plethora of options in Metro Exodus far exceeds those of its predecessors, and the game appears to have finally reached the level of openness that previous titles strove to achieve, striking a balance between linear, action packed segments and the opportunity to explore the ruins and quiet of the Russian countryside.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Moscow looks more or less the same as it did in previous Metro titles, and consequently, while I made my way through Metro Exodus‘ first section, there aren’t many screenshots that were particularly noteworthy. These sections are very linear, although players still have the option of using stealth and non-lethal take-downs on the Hanza soldiers. The benefits of this option is two-fold: besides saving ammunition and preventing unnecessary combat, it also helps Artyom’s karmic balance positive.

  • After stealing a train from Hanza, Artyom and his fellow Spartans end up at Zavodskoy Rayon, on the outskirts of Saratov some seven hundred kilometers away from Moscow. Here, the Volga reaches a width of three kilometres in width, and there are indeed small islands that dot the river’s main banks. By winter, the Volga is covered in ice and snow, reminiscent of the Volga map of Battlefield 1. As the first truly open area in Metro Exodus, players will have a chance to explore, but shortly after disembarking from the train, Artyom follows Anna to a large church on an island.

  • In this church, the goal is to reach the tower and scout around. The fanatics will be hostile towards Artyom and shoot him on sight, but they aren’t the enemy, and a stealth approach will be preferred. I traditionally map my key bindings so that the knockout key is easier to reach than the kill key so I don’t accidentally use lethal force on an enemy. Upon ascending the tower, Artyom will find a mother and her daughter, whom he rescues and brings back to the train.

  • With the scouting done, Artyom can take a boat to traverse the frigid waters of the Volga. Rowing the boat is extremely slow, so I fell back on using the boat to only cross bodies of water and then leg it where possible. By day, the number of monsters is fewer, and visibility is better, but there still are the shrimps of old. The Kalashnikov I have here is a decent enough all-around weapon for combat with both monsters and human foes, and in the beginning, I equipped it with the suppressed barrel and red dot sight. The basic 20-round magazine is not suited for sustained combat at close range.

  • Climbing to the top of a tower to meet a local named Krest, who despises the fanatics and wishes to lend his mechanical skills, I am afforded with a stunning view of the Volga region. The clouds are very lifelike, matching the quality of those seen in the Frostbite Engine. Compared to the narrow confines of the tunnels and Moscow streets of earlier titles, Metro Exodus offers true open areas for players to explore, and by day, the reduced number of mutant wildlife means it’s possible to truly take in the scenery. On the matter of taking in the moment and enjoying things, I’m finally done with constructing the new furniture and now have a dual-monitor setup, plus additional space for a mousepad. When August started, I built a new desk and closet wardrobe: the latter was tricky and took an entire day to assemble. After stopping for a delicious lunch of fish and chips with both potato and yam fries, I then worked to finish the drawer, enjoyed some cheesecake and Roobios tea and then played through Metro Exodus.

  • The revolver is one of the most enduring and reliable weapons of Metro, and in Metro Exodus, it begins its journey with a meagre three-round capacity. Depending on its setup, it can be a dependable backup weapon for close quarters stealth engagements or even a mid-range solution that allows Artyom to put rounds downrange more accurately than the Kalashnikov. I typically carried a Kalashnikov for its all around versatility and then swapped out weapons as I needed, using the revolver for open areas and switching to the Ashot shotgun for close quarters engagements. Despite its commonality and simple design, it packs a punch and is well-suited for dealing with mutants.

  • The Bastard Submachine Gun also makes a return, and unlike its Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light counterparts, is now chambered for the revolve ammunition rather than rifle ammunition. Performing more like a pistol-carbine in its base form, it can be upgraded to become a respectable weapon with a high rate of fire for close quarters engagements. However, it also burns through pistol ammunition quickly, and in general, the Ashot’s lower rate of fire is preferred because ammunition in Metro Exodus is even rarer than it was in its predecessors, so making each bullet count becomes even more important.

  • The low reliability of the Kalashnikov at range meant that for my part, I kept the revolver kitted out for intermediate-range combat. Metro Exodus has bandits camping at certain points in the map, and there’s no penalty for taking them out. However, after Artyom eliminates a certain number of bandits, the others will surrender. They stop being a threat at this point, although I will still knock them out for their supplies.

  • The wide open spaces of the Volga represent a first for the Metro series, and it was worth the time it took to climb to higher places and admire the scenery. Exploring the maps are also important: Nastya will ask Artyom to find her stuffed bear, a gift from her parents, and one can locate this at an abandoned chemical plant. There’s also a guitar hanging around: after freeing some fanatics from bandits, Artyom can retrieve it at his leisure.

  • Here, I wield the Tikhar pneumatic rifle, a custom-built weapon that fires steel balls at high speeds. When fully pressurised, the Tikhar can be devastating, although as it is fired, it becomes increasingly less effective. The initial tank cannot be overcharged, as it will leak, but at a pressure of anything past six, it is fairly effective, acting as a totally silent solution for dispatching enemies. Because ammunition can be crafted in the field, the Tikhar ensures Artyom will always have a ranged weapon to use.

  • Sunsets in the Volga are stunning, as every bit as impressive as the Volga map in Battlefield 1 was. It turns out that for all of the exploring I did in the Volga, however, I did not find several gear pieces that may have been helpful for later. One aspect of Metro Exodus that I am thoroughly enjoying is the well thought-out side-grade system: different gear pieces have different attributes, and since Artyom can only swap them out at workbenches, it becomes important to consider what scenarios one might encounter before picking gear. My goal moving through the Caspian will be to do more exploring for these pieces.

  • Once the mechanic is rescued, Artyom is tasked with retrieving a train car located in an abandoned factory that’s flooded. While I would normally prefer to complete story missions by day for their improved visibility, excitement meant that I chose to push forwards and visit the factory by night, with the invariable result that there were numerous mutants to fight off. I’ve never been fond of fighting mutants, since they attack via brute force and do not drop anything, so every confrontation translates to a net loss of resources.

  • The Ashot is the best weapon against mutants: the buckshot does massive damage and will deal with weaker enemies in one shot. While its default configuration only allows for a shot before reloading, it can be fitted with a double barrel. In this form, it is superb for dealing with mutants, and having gone through the process, I find that having plenty of shotgun shells is imperative if one prefers to play during the night hours, since the shotgun is the most effective means of melting through mutants.

  • In the flooded, derelict factory, stealth actually doesn’t really mean anything, but repeated confrontations with mutants left me desperately short of shells, forcing me to switch over to the Tikhar. By this point, I had found the sealed mechanism and could keep the weapon pressurised: it turns out that the Tikhar is effective against mutants, although it is still better to engage them from a medium distance. The weapon has a respectable firing rate and one will quickly burn through ammunition, plus lower the air pressure from firing quickly.

  • In the factory, Artyom will have a chance to use a trap and neutralise the giant mutant catfish that’s been stalking him throughout the Volga. Worshipped by the fanatics, the catfish actually is of some help to the player, as it will take out shrimps and other mutants. Careful timing is required to properly make use of this trap – if one can time it correctly, it will drop a massive weight onto the catfish that finishes it off. After finishing this segment, I was stuck trying to get the rail car out, only to realise that I needed to open a great gate before I could leave the facility.

  • While most players dislike the hitmarkers, I personally find them to be immensely useful to determine whether or not I hit my mark, and if so, whether or not it was a regular hit, headshot or killing shot. The hitmarkers of Metro: Last Light were not aesthetically pleasing, but in Metro Exodus, they are smaller and much more useful. Knowing what a shot did means I can plan ahead: seeing a kill marker is important, as it means I can stop firing on a target and shift my attention elsewhere. This feature is immensely valuable in Battlefield: since Battlefield 4 implemented context-sensitive hitmarkers, I’ve always used red to indicate a headshot and green to indicate a kill.

  • Because I was foolhardy enough to attempt the rail car mission during the hours of dark, I had to contend with the anomalies, which are floating balls of electricity that deal massive damage: an unfortunate mutant gets too close here and is ignited. There is no way to deal with these, and having not played the Metro: Last Light DLC, I’ve not seen these since Metro Redux 2033: the only way is to go around it and give it plenty of space.

  • The way back to the Spartans is fraught with dangers, including one section where one has to fight their way through a bandit camp. I ended up clearing the camp out after stealth failed, and made use of the Kalashnikov against the human opponents. While ineffective against mutants, carefully-placed rounds from the Kalashnikov are excellent for bandits. I ended up finding a thirty-round magazine and extended magazines for the weapon, plus a long barrel, allowing it to be turned into an RPK. While increasing its firepower and range, however, extended magazines and a long barrel also reduces its handling, lowering accuracy and increasing reload times.

  • I actually picked up Metro Exodus early in June during the Epic Sale: while I had intended to buy this for Steam, it became an Epic exclusive. My final decision was that, since the Epic sale put Metro Exodus as being less expensive than the Ace Combat 7 season pass, I would pick Metro Exodus up first. While folks have been unhappy with the exclusivity, my work with Epic and the Unreal Engine during graduate school meant I actually still had an account I could use. I updated my launcher, picked up the game for 28 CAD and started the party after finishing Valkyria Chronicles 4 in June.

  • With the train car secured, Artyom heads off to convince the fanatics to lower the bridge. While I equipped the Tikhar here, I ended up knocking out any and all opposition I encountered. Combined with my other actions earlier on, I managed to confront the fanatic leader, who reluctantly lets Artyom lower the bridge without further incident. I now enter the spring phase of Metro Exodus, and so far, I am very impressed with the game for introducing new settings that really change up the experience while at once, refining the core experience and gameplay.

Whereas the first two Metro titles were set in Moscow, moving Metro Exodus into the countryside pushes the series into a realm I’ve longed to explore. There is a great deal of intrigue in the remote wilderness of Russia, as well as surrounding abandoned structures. Previous titles were more limited in their setting, so the change of pace has allowed Metro Exodus to highlight the diversity of the Russian landscape, which remains one of the most remote and least densely populated places on Earth. As I made my way though the watery expanse of the Volga, I took the time to explore the map, finding some upgrades to my gear and even a small child’s teddy bear in the process. However, the open world presents new threats, and so, I took to exploring by day, where visibility was improved. After becoming more familiar with the crafting system and weapon customisation options, I felt comfortable in pushing onwards: after locating Anna and then stealing a train car, I saw Artyom push to the bridge, where he stealthily confronts the cult leader and persuades him to allow the train safe passage. Winter will give way to spring, and I am greatly looking forwards to seeing what Metro Exodus has in store as I press forwards into the latest instalment to a series I’ve come to greatly enjoy and respect.

Battlefield V: The Lynette Bishop Loadout, Operation Mercury, Killtastrophe, Rampage and a new Headshot Record

“Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it.” —Eliza Tabor

The third Tides of War chapter to Battlefield V introduced a host of new weapons, and the first new map in over half a year: the map Mercury was added at the end of May, and portrays the Battle of Crete, during which the Germans mounted an airborne assault on the Greek island, which was under British occupation. The map itself is beautiful, with blue skies, turquoise waters, Greek-style houses and cliffs that encourage vertical gameplay. Besides a new map, six new weapons were also added. The medic class gains access to the bolt-action carbine weapons, which allows them to hang back and engage enemies at a medium range more effectively. In particular, the M28 con Tromboncino provides medics with a brand-new playstyle, where they can use the integral grenade launcher to damage vehicles. Similarly, the scout class also received two new weapon classes: the P08 Pistol Carbine is the first close-quarters weapon for the scout, bringing back the aggressive recon style gameplay that I was very fond of in earlier Battlefield titles, while the Boys AT Rifle is an immensely powerful weapon that, in addition to being able to decimate infantry, also gives the Scouts the ability to damage vehicles. The third chapter thus provides players with different options for their classes, and this in turn has helped with keeping things fresh, even though the development and release of new content has been at a snail’s pace: by this point in Battlefield 1‘s lifespan, the They Shall Not Pass DLC had released, introducing five new maps, a new tank and six new weapons. However, while things have been progressing very slowly, Battlefield V‘s roadmap for the months upcoming have revealed that the fourth Tides of War chapter will bring at six new maps to the table, including a re-imagining of Battlefield 3’s Operation Metro. Chapter five subsequently introduces the American Pacific and Imperial Japan factions, bringing players to the long-awaited Pacific Theatre. Iwo Jima and the M1 Garand rifle will be introduced, and this is particularly exciting.

Over the past six months, since I last wrote about Battlefield V‘s multiplayer, I’ve now reached the point where it costed me less than a dollar per hour to play Battlefield V, and I’m hovering around a KDR of 0.9, a considerable improvement relative to my performance in Battlefield 1. While Battlefield V‘s consistently failed to deliver on new maps, Tides of War and its weekly rewards have been sufficient incentive to return and complete assignments, encouraging replay. While I’m not particularly fond of the constant introduction of new game modes, and feel that playing the same maps have become very repetitive (DICE would be better served building new maps rather than adding game modes which have had insufficient testing and lack the same scale as conquest), the silver lining is that I’ve become very familiar with the maps, to the point where my performance has been of a consistently high standard. Map and weapon knowledge has allowed me to help my team out, top the scoreboards and generally have a good time while attempting each of the weekly assignments. With the improvement in familiarity comes a few new personal bests. The close-quarters chaos of Outpost allowed me to score a killtastrophe (a multi-kill of eight, equivalent to killing 8 opponents within 4 seconds of each previous kill in Halo 3). The Valentine Archer tank, introduced during the second Tides of War chapter, has been my go-to vehicle. Despite its lack of a rotating turret, the Archer’s loadout is incredibly effective against infantry and vehicles alike. I’ve gone on multiple 15-streaks with the Archer, and my current best is a 23-streak (equivalent to Halo 2’s Rampage). Knowing the weapons better have allowed me to best my headshot record by one metre using the Lee-Endfield No. 4 Mk. I — my headshot record is now 258 metres, up from 257. While the maps have not been something to write home about, new weapons also have kept things satisfactorily enjoyable: the P08 and Boys AT Rifle are especially fun, adding a new dimension to the scout class.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I open this post up with a killtactular I got while operating a Tiger I against a loaded transport. During my time with the Tides of War, I found my skills tested not against other players, but with the assignment requirements themselves. Most challenging was the assignment to unlock the StuG IV, which entailed using a passenger gun to kill enemies while attacking an objective – I ended up finishing this assignment and grabbing my StuG IV (an upgrade the the StuG III that the history team of Girls und Panzer operate) before DICE modified the assignment and accidentally locked people out of it.

  • The De Lisle Carbine is one of the few suppressed weapons in Battlefield V, and while it marks the first time that the medics got access to something new, the weapon is also remarkably difficult to use, being ineffectual at close quarters, and demanding superb aim to land medium range shots. However, in offering something new to the medic class, Battlefield V shows that with the right content, the game has the potential to last quite a while.

  • While the StuG IV was an interesting vehicle, the Valentine Archer is perhaps the most overpowered vehicle in the game, even following the patch. Before, with the right specialisations, the Archer could hold a total of 50 rounds: 40 standard shells for its QF 17PDR and an additional ten APDS rounds. Combined with a high mobility, the Archer becomes the perfect tank for delivering an incredible volume of fire downrange – while limited by the fact that it has no rotating turret, the vehicle has extreme endurance, and I had no difficulty in going on long the equivalent of a Running Riot even with the base Archer. So effective is the Archer that I’ve been accused of cheating while using it: when used as a long-range solution, the Archer is untouchable.

  • The longest killstreak I’ve gone on is with the Archer: during a match, I ended up going 23-0 with it, which is equivalent to Halo‘s “Rampage” killstreak. The Archer was subsequently nerfed to carry less ammunition, but even then, it remains terrifyingly powerful. Despite the updated Archer carrying a maximum of 32 shells for the QF 17PDR for a total of 42 rounds, down from its original 50, the Archer still has exceptional endurance in combat. For my part, I play the Archer as a sniper: if one is assured some security from the rear and flanks, no other tank comes close to it in performance.

  • After putting in over eighty hours into Battlefield V, it’s become apparent that cheating is a much greater issue here than it has been with previous titles: low level players with scores and KD-ratios that far exceed what is feasible in-game very are encountered frequently. Low levels translate to less time spent learning weapon patterns and reduced map knowledge, so doing unrealistically well is an indicator I am dealing with someone who is employing some sort of client-side modifications. While I ordinarily quit out of games with such players, the Tides of War assignments often require that I stay to completion, which makes for a frustrating experience. Conversely, in game where there are no cheaters, I perform modestly well.

  • The Boys AT Rifle was the most welcome addition to Battlefield V thus far: I’ve long desired to run with the Lynette Bishop loadout in Battlefield, and after unlocking this gun, immediately set about putting it to the test. With a fire rate of 10 RMP, the Boys AT Rifle fired a 13.9 mm round at 747 m/s in real life, and could punch through up to 23.2 mm of armour at 91.44 meters. The weapon was initially effective against lighter tanks, but improvements in German armour meant the Boys AT Rifle was no longer as useful, and eventually became replaced by the PIAT. In Battlefield V, the Boys AT Rifle fires at 22 RPM and has a muzzle velocity of 400 m/s, but can be upgraded to fire at 26 RPM and rounds that travel at 460 m/s.

  • In Battlefield V, the Boys AT Rifle is useless against tanks, can deal reasonable damage to light vehicles (a few shots will destroy them) and is obscenely powerful against infantry under 100 metres, being able to one shot anyone with a body shot. To run the most authentic Lynette loadout possible, I opted to equip the machined bolt to improve the Boys AT Rifle’s firing rate: Lynette typically uses magic to increase her Boys AT Rifle’s fire rate, as well as to stablise her shots and aim at longer distances. Since magic isn’t a feature in Battlefield V, I decided that a good set of optics would need to replace Lynette’s ability to resolve targets at great distances.

  • One of my favourite moments with the Boys AT Rifle is getting a double kill with one shot on enemies in a narrow street in Rotterdam. Getting kills with the weapon is incredibly satisfying. While capable of downing infantry in one shot under 100 metres, the Boys AT Rifle is balanced by the fact that it has a very slow muzzle velocity, low firing rate and demands a bipod to operate accurately. Setting the weapon up is a challenge and leaves one exposed: in exchange for its great power, there are concessions that must be made. As such, I find that the Boys AT Rifle is well-balanced, and not overpowered. In the right situation, it is devastating, but not sufficiently so as to change the outcome of a game. I believe that an issue where the Boys AT Rifle had inappropriately good hip-fire accuracy has since been addressed.

  • Set on Crete, Mercury is the first new map to grace Battlefield V since Panzerstorm came out back in December. Filled with cliffs and set alongside the coasts of Crete on the Mediterranean, Mercury is a beautiful map that offers a brand-new atmosphere to Battlefield V. My first kill on the map was with the Panzer IV Ausf. H, Miho’s preferred tank as Girls und Panzer progressed: the Ausf. D configuration was originally intended for an anti-infantry role. On the topic of Girls und Panzer, it appears that overseas viewers have begun flying over to Japan for Das Finale‘s second part, and if what I’m hearing is to be believed, at least one individual intends to do this for the remaining four parts. I’ve mentioned this numerous times that I don’t get this behaviour, since the payoffs of seeing a film ahead of everyone else are not worth the price it takes for such an endeavour.

  • I’ve always been practically-minded about these things: assuming a cost of around 2500 CAD (including flights, ground transportation, accommodations, food and the movie ticket itself), seeing all six parts of Girls und Panzer: Das Finale would cost 15000 CAD. I get that there are people who are dedicated to Girls und Panzer, but spending this much money just to see a military-moé series ahead of everyone else cannot be considered wise, especially since watching the movie in theatres does not allow one the option of taking high-resolution screenshots and generating interesting discussions as one might see here. Instead of attempting to match the folly that some might have, I’ll take a more practical route and for the present, focus on enjoying Battlefield V and the other things in the now. Here, I run with the Bren: Perrine H. Clostermann’s weapon of choice, the slow-firing and hard-hitting Bren has quickly become my favourite LMG of Battlefield V for its reliability at medium ranges.

  • The turquoise waters off the coast of Crete are stunning, and give way to the verdant cliffs players fight on. The map greatly resembles Battlefield 1‘s Achi Baba, which was located on Turkey’s Gallipoli Peninsula. However, whereas Achi Baba is located inland and features narrow canyons, rocky hills and ruins, Mercury has villages and a spectacular view of the water. Battlefield V is definitely more colourful than its predecessor, but has had very little opportunity to show off what the Frostbite Engine is capable of primarily because of its limited map selection.

  • Besides a lack of maps, every patch of Battlefield V also introduced a series of unusual bugs that negatively impacted performance and user experience. This aspect of Battlefield V makes no sense: DICE has already proven that the Frostbite Engine is capable of excellent net code, managing 64 players seamlessly and ensuring hit detection is accurately reported. As such, when things like TTD are still a problem in Battlefield V, I cannot help but wonder if core aspects of the game will be improved; while my experiences have been reasonably smooth, that DICE continues to encounter these problems is not encouraging.

  • Having reached rank twenty for the medic, I finally unlocked the M1928A1 Thompson Submachine Gun. Better known as the Tommy Gun, this weapon was an iconic part of American history, known for its use by bootleggers during the Prohibition era. The basic Thompson has a 20-round stick magazine and handles similar to the Suomi, but once upgraded with its 50-round drum magazine, the weapon becomes a powerhouse weapon for the medic.

  • Its effectiveness has quickly made the Thompson my favourite of the medic weapons, and rendered the journey to reach rank twenty worth it. Up until now, I predominantly ran the MP-40 and ZK-383: the former is reliable and consistent, while the latter packs a punch and is suited for slightly longer ranges thanks to its bipod. While the medic class had started Battlefield V as an ineffectual one, updates to submachine gun performance and access to weapon specialisations have come together to make the class much more viable.

  • Addition of the M28 con Tromboncino (an upgraded version of Battlefield 1‘s M91 Carcano Carbine) to the medic class finally provides one with the option of medium-range combat. The bolt-action carbines for the medic class exchange raw damage, range and accuracy of the bolt-action rifles for a higher firing rate; they have a straight-pull bolt, and so, one can continue firing without zooming out, making it possible to land follow-up shots more effectively.

  • Lacking the same limitations as the De Lisle Carbine, the M28 con Tromboncino is the first proper medium-range weapon for the medic, and it is a great choice for maps that have wide open spaces. While medics can typically get around by making use of smoke and relying on their teammates to provide return fire at range, there are situations where being able to reliably hit back is valuable.

  • The M28 con Tromboncino also has one additional feature that makes it an attractive weapon: it possesses an integral grenade launcher that was originally intended to extend the firepower infantry could carry without relying on mortar support. In Battlefield V, the integral grenade launcher handles similarly to the support class’ AT grenade pistol, and gives medics the option of engaging light vehicles, as well as discouraging tanks. Here, I managed to destroy a tank that was low on health using the M28 con Tromboncino’s grenades.

  • Outpost is the latest game mode to join Battlefield V, and while it is focused on smaller-scale combat, I feel that the radio tower construction/destruction mechanic adds a bit more engagement to capturing points: one must actively build or destroy a radio tower to control a point. The mode was surprisingly fun, forcing a different play style compared to standard conquest, and the aggregation of players on a capture point also makes reinforcements highly useful. My original wish for more reinforcements was realised: smoke barrage and artillery strike were added to the game during the second chapter, and it appears that spotting aircraft and flamethrowers could make their way into the main game in the future.

  • All that’s left would be a 4-player strategic bomber like the B-29 that can deal massive damage and provide several gun turrets similar to Call of Duty WWII‘s B-17 Ball turret kill-streak. The tradeoff would be that the B-29 flies extremely slowly and would be vulnerable to AA guns, as well as enemy aircraft. here, I score a headshot with the Gewehr M.95, a weapon with a fast muzzle velocity. The headshot I refer to in this post’s title was actually scored on Arras with the Lee-Endfield No. 4 Mk. I, where I landed a particularly lucky shot from the church tower close to the B-point on a player standing at the C-point. Considering the difficulty of sniping in Battlefield V compared to its predecessors, I’d say that this isn’t too shabby a feat.

  • My most impressive moment in Battlefield V actually comes a few days ago, after the third Tides of War chapter ended. I was messing around on Arras and had gone on a short kill-streak with the Valentine Archer, but was unceremoniously killed by a player who got lucky with the sticky dynamite. Spawning back in close to where I’d died, I noticed that the enemy team had begun swarming the A point and immediately called in a JB-2 rocket. When it struck, I got eight kills simultaneously, which is counted as a Killtastrophe in Halo 3.  The skill-based aspects of Battlefield V means that I’ve actually improved much more quickly than I did with Battlefield 1, and with this in mind, while Battlefield V had been off to a weak start, the recent announcements about chapter four in Tides of War, and confirmation of the Pacific Theatre has me very excited. Despite my disappointments, I remain optimistic that DICE will turn Battlefield V into a superbly enjoyable title, much as they had for Battlefield 3Battlefield 4 and Battlefield 1 before it.

For the past while, I’ve thus been running the Lynette Bishop loadout: the addition of the Boys AT Rifle into the game has finally made it possible for me to run around as my favourite Witch of the 501st, and it has been quite exhilarating to make the Boys AT Rifle work. Blessed with the ability to one-hit-kill anyone from under 100 metres owing to its .55 Boys ammunition, the Boys AT Rifle is constrained by low muzzle velocity, fire rate and the fact that its bipod must be deployed for it to be effective. For the most part, since I don’t happen to have magic that allows me to use the Boys AT Rifle the same way Lynette does, I need to place myself strategically to make the weapon work. However, when positioning is good, the Boys AT Rifle is a beast: to match Lynette’s abilities, I run the Boys AT Rifle with Slings and Swivels (faster weapon draw), flashless propellant (reduces muzzle flash), the machined bolt (increases firing rate) and high velocity bullets. While its damage makes it a terrifying weapon to square off against, the Boys AT Rifle’s limitations means that it takes a bit of skill and patience to properly wield the weapon: missing a shot is unforgiving, and having the bipod deployed makes one vulnerable to counter-snipers. On the whole, however, the Boys AT Rifle has been a fun weapon to use, and Lynette’s loadout is, when played correctly, a viable one in Battlefield V. The upcoming Tides of War chapters look to bring even more iconic weapons and vehicles into Battlefield V, and so, while it is disappointing to see that Battlefield V has remained buggy and lacking in content, the future for the title remains quite encouraging: Battlefield V could still very well become an incredible World War Two shooter, and the Pacific Theatre definitely looks to be helping the game along. If a new elite soldier wielding a katana is introduced in the Pacific Theatre chapter, I would be tempted to drop additional coin for this, as it would allow me to run the Mio Sakamoto loadout.

Battlefield V: An Incursion into Firestorm and remarks on Battle Royale

I fell into a burning ring of fire
I went down, down, down
And the flames went higher
And it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire, the ring of fire

– Johnny Cash, Ring of Fire

Introduced with the third Tides of War chapter, Firestorm is Battlefield V‘s answer to the wildly popular battle royale genre. Set on Halvoy, a vast map of snowy forests, lakeside cabins and mountain roads in the Nordic landscape, Firestorm features the biggest map to ever figure in a Battlefield game. The principles are the same: eliminate enemies, stay alive and move to a safe area whenever the ring of fire shrinks the playable area. The mode can be played independently, as well as in squads of two or four people, and for Firestorm, Battlefield V offers a modestly intuitive and efficient inventory management system, allowing players to swap out their gear, use additional support items like armour plates, health kits and gadgets and determine what ammunition they ought to carry. Weapons and gear items come in different rarities, with higher-end items being more suited for their intended roles. However, even low end items can still be useful, and immediately after touchdown, it is important to immediately kit up before seeking out better gear, and making one’s way to the next play area. This is about the gist of Firestorm, and prior to its introduction, I had no inclination to play it whatsoever. Battlefield V‘s Tides of War, however, required that I at least acquainted myself with the mode in order to complete several of the challenges. During my time with Firestorm, I found a mode that was unexpectedly refreshing from the usual tenour of Battlefield V‘s core offerings.

Battlefield has traditionally been about large maps and large scale, setting it apart from the close-quarters frenzies of titles like Call of Duty, and the more tactical, slower experiences that Rainbow Six Siege and Counter Strike offers. Not quite as hectic as an arena shooter, but also faster-paced than tactical shooters, I’ve long enjoyed Battlefield for modes like conquest and domination, which offer large-scale battles. Battle royale modes like Firestorm modify this dynamic entirely, pitting individual players and their map knowledge against other players. The pacing is even slower than that of a tactical shooter, since players aren’t ever really too sure of what lurks around the corner or over the next hill: this sense of foreboding and anticipation creates a suspense that elevates the immersion. With the stunning visuals and performance afforded by the Frostbite Engine, Firestorm offers a unique battle royale experience that has impressed. There are certainly merits to a mode like this in Battlefield V, although the dubious decision to only make this available to existing Battlefield V players means that the mode might not have as much staying power in the long term. For me, the pacing is not something I particularly look for in a game despite being enjoyable and a different experience than Battlefield V‘s traditional modes: I’m more inclined to enjoy modes where I am able to respawn back into intense warfare involving infantry and vehicles.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • During my first match of Firestorm, I dropped into a snowy area, found a common rifle and then proceeded to get melted by another player with an epic weapon. The different tiers are differentiated by the specialisations and optics on the weapon, with rare tier weapons having better characteristics. Epic weapons have two specialisations and an optic that improves its performance, although damage is unmodified, and so, players can go toe-to-toe with other players even if their weapon is of a lower tier.

  • My favourite part of the Halvoy maps are set in the areas with less snow, more grass and some of the Nordic-style cabins. The water effects here are amazing, and the houses around tend to old common or rare items. I tend to discard ammunition I find for shotguns, only holding onto ammunition for a weapon that I currently have active.

  • My first kill in Firestorm was using the Sten: this submachine gun has good hipfire performance, and I noticed that another player was hanging around the house I was chilling in. I eventually baited this player into the house, and with the Sten, proceeded to get the kill on them. It’s a bit of a dirty play, since I normally avoiding using camping techniques in normal play – Firestorm encourages the camping approach.

  • Besides healing pouches and armour plates, I usually make it a point to carry anti-personnel explosives if I can find them. I’ve not encountered any players in vehicles, mainly because the solo game mode means players going on foot rather than use vehicles and attract attention to themselves. This means that anti-armour weapons are usually of lesser use, although they can be useful in blasting open houses enemies are camping.

  • While battle royale intrinsically is more suspenseful than any other gamemode in Battlefield V, the scenery is exceptionally good, and Halvoy is beautiful. The diversity of landscapes and terrain on Halvoy allow everything from snowy fields to lakeside cabins to be portrayed in beautiful detail, and there’s an unusual tranquility on the map found nowhere else in Battlefield V. It would be worth going into Halvoy and avoiding enemy players just to explore the different points of interest.

  • My typical strategy for Firestorm is to drop where players are not, and then continue moving through cover to avoid being shot at. Since the objective of the solo game mode is to avoid death for as long as possible, keeping away from unnecessary combat and letting other players whittle one another down. Of course, if I do get the drop on another player, I will opt to eliminate them if it is safe to do so.

  • In a straight-up confrontation, I usually end up winning owing to a combination of superior reflexes and weapon understanding. Where I unexpectedly come under fire, I usually end up losing the firefight if my opponent is more hidden away. While Firestorm uses a completely different health and armour system, the time to kill is still relatively quick.

  • Every battle royale game involves a shrinking game area. In Firestorm, a literal ring of fire surrounds the map and burns areas inland as time wears on. Players are eliminated instantly from this inferno, so it is imperative to always continue moving inward as time wears on. This naturally increases the risk of running into other players, and having good weapons becomes more important as a match progresses.

  • During my best match, I found an epic FG-42 with 3x optics, and it was a superbly effective weapon that allowed me to score three kills in total. I had secured the requirements for the Tides of War achievement, but was also desperately low on ammunition for the FG-42. I ended up dying in an ambush. While I’ve not put enough time into Firestorm to win a match, it is fun to see how far I can progress.

  • Supply drops become available in Firestorm that act as mini-objectives – offering superior equipment, they also give incentive for players to converge on a point and engage one another for better equipment, as well as to score a few kills before moving on. I’ve never been close enough to these supply drops to do anything meaningful with them, such as taking potshots at enemies or securing better gear.

  • Firestorm did allow me to utilise the M1928A1 Thompson, which I’ve still yet to unlock in the multiplayer proper. This iconic submachine gun is one of the best weapons available to the medic class, and its base version is fairly powerful, having a high fire rate and good accuracy. While stymied by a low ammunition capacity, the weapon can be upgraded to have a fifty round capacity. At the time of writing, I’m level nineteen with the medic and will be unlocking the Thompson shortly.

  • On the whole, I’d say that the simplified experience that Firestorm offers, in conjunction with being powered by the Frostbite Engine, makes it the superior battle royale game compared to the likes of Fortnite or Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, which have comparatively more sophisticated mechanics and therefore, has a slightly larger learning curve.

  • The Bren Gun excels at medium ranges: while it has a slower rate of fire, it is accurate and hits fairly hard, making it a solid choice for maps with wider open spaces. Its main limitation is its top-mounted box magazine, which severely obstructs visibility. Perrine’s weapon of choice in Strike Witches, the Bren has served her well in missions against the Neuroi, although like most movies, Perrine is shown operating it for much longer than its box magazine allows.

  • I’m almost certain that carrying a Liberator pistol around is meant to be a joke: the weapon does pitiful damage and cannot kill with a single headshot. Hampered by an uncommonly long reload time, the Liberator lacks the Kolibri’s headshot damage multiplier and firing rate (a skillful player can kill up to two opponents with eight back-to-back headshots): Hikari used the Liberator to great effect in Brave Witches in finishing off the Gregori Neuroi Hive, but the incredibly poor characteristics, in conjunction with a lack of behemoths, means that accomplishing what Hikari did in Battlefield V is outright impossible.

  • If the rumours are to be believed, updates to Battlefield V will introduce the American and Japanese factions, plus the Pacific Theatre, in addition to the Boys Anti-Tank rifle. This will allow me to run the Lynette Bishop loadout, where I attempt to run around with the Boys Anti-Tank rifle as a primary weapon as Lynette does, and attempt to snipe enemy players. The inclusion of the American M4 Sherman will also let me run the Kay loadout: if one of the upgrade paths includes a 17-pounder, that would be phenomenal.

  • On the Japanese side of things, being able to utilise the Type 99 Mk. 2 Model Kai would allow me to run an authentic Yoshika Miyafuji loadout. While the weapon is technically an autocannon, firing 20mm rounds, its firing rate is closer to that of a heavy machine gun. The weapon was used in an anti-air role capacity, and this may reduce the odds of it being an infantry-portable weapon. While the Japanese did have their own LMGs and MMGs, they’re quite unremarkable as weapons (the Type 96, for instance, outwardly resembles the Bren).

  • While Battlefield V has continued to suffer from an unclear content release schedule and limited content, I note that Star Wars: Battlefront II has done exceptionally well of late. With sustained new content and a revision of the in-game currency system, Battlefront II has reached its launch player counts and is said to be a solid game that handles well. Continued support for the game after a rough launch has turned it into a respectable title, and given DICE’s track record, I expect that Battlefield V will very likely become a highly enjoyable and solid instalment to Battlefield, as well.

  • The promise of Pacific Theatre content is definitely encouraging, and in the meantime, I’ll periodically play Battlefield V to completely the weekly Tides of War assignments. I am going to have to miss this week’s assignment, which yields the Tromboncino M28 on completion. This weapon is a variation of the Carcano Carbine and has the distinction of being able to act as a bolt action rifle with anti-vehicle capabilities: it fires grenades, as well. Here, I eliminate an enemy in Firestorm using the M1A1 Carbine.

  • We’re now two days into May, and the reason why I’m going to miss this week’s assignment is because I’ve been in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley for Facebook’s F8 conference. I applied back in March and was pleasantly surprised to learn that I was invited. The F8 conference represented a fabulous opportunity to speak with Facebook’s engineers, network and also watch their keynotes in person. Aside from the technical presentations and sessions, the conference was a solid opportunity to also converse with other developers, try out the new Oculus Quest and partake in the evening events.

  • With F8 now over, I’ll be offering a few thoughts on my experiences in upcoming posts. I am pushing forwards with Yama no Susume‘s second season and will have my thoughts on the first half in due course. In addition, I am moving through Valkyria Chronicles 4 – the eighth chapter appears to be the equivalent of the Batomys engagement at the Barious Desert, and I’m still figuring out an optimal moveset for finishing this fight. Finally, entering May, I am pleased to announce that I am hosting June’s Jon’s Creator Showcase, an initiative to share and discuss noteworthy blog posts. Come June, I will be gathering posts from the month of May of all sorts. More information on this will become available towards the end of the month, and I will be applying my own unique brand of discussion towards this programme, which is geared towards increasing exposure to different blogs out there.

For me, my lack of patience in gaming means that the slower, methodical gameplay of battle royale games means that I have not particularly found the fad to be one I could get behind. Having only played the solo mode of Firestorm, it is clear that battle royale’s merits come with playing in a squad, where one is able to coordinate with other players to create some genuinely exciting moments of strategy and cunning. As I am very much a lone-wolf player when it comes to gaming, battle royale is a mode I’ve not gotten too much out of. With this being said, Battlefield V‘s implementation shows that the Frostbite Engine is indeed capable of accommodating a technically solid battle royale mode, and with the right adjustments to Battlefield mechanics, battle royale can be quite engaging in its own right. There’s a market for this game type, and while I personally might not be it, rolling out a standalone Firestorm launcher and allowing interested players to play freely would definitely allow Firestorm to reach more players. In the meantime, it’s a mode that remains little more than a curiosity as I push further into the Tides of War programme – the hunt to unlock new weapons has provided incentive enough to continue with Battlefield V even though there’s been no new maps.

The Last Tiger: Reflections on the Battlefield V Campaign

“Well, commanders don’t have the luxury of saying old shit that comes into their heads like drivers do!” –Peter Müller

Peter Müller is the commander of a Tiger I tank who fought in North Africa, but as Allied forces advance across Europe, German forces are forced into retreat. Müller is assigned with defending Cologne, and as they fight to repel Allied forces, come across soldiers branded as traitors and deserters. when artillery bombards Müller’s position, he is tasked with launching a counterattack. Despite successfully destroying the artillery pieces, Allied aircraft bombard the city. Müller sends Hartmann to scout ahead for a route, but Hartmann disappears in the smoke. When aircraft renew their bombardment and damages their Tiger, Müller himself leaves the tank to fend off the aircraft while his crew repair the tank. Rejoining his crew, Müller then makes his way to another position held by American forces and recovers documents pertinent to the war. As night falls, Müller is given a final assignment: to defend a cathedral from the relentlessly advancing American units. Despite Allied orders to surrender, the crew opt to fight. Over the radio, German command issues a retreat, but while Müller is crossing a bridge, German forces sabotage the bridge and destroy it. With their Tiger I out of commission, Müller decides to surrender and removes his Iron Cross. Schröder, who shot another crew member earlier, turns his MP40 on Müller. Despite the Führer’s order to defend Germany to the death resulting in countless German casualties, both civilian and military alike, the Allies capture Cologne in March 1945. Berlin itself would fall two months later, putting an end to the war. It is rare that a World War Two game would be presented from the Axis perspective, and players have long wondered what such stories would be like: in a single war story, Battlefield V gives rare insight into the thoughts of a German tank commander who once fought with the goal of bringing glory to Germany. But as the war wore on and casualties mounted along with increasing Allied resolve to crush Hitler’s tyranny, Müller begins to wonder if the war is still worth fighting when hope for victory becomes increasingly distant with each passing day.

History is written by the victor: when I was much younger, I always wondered why the “good guys” always won wars. It turned out that the vanquished don’t have much say in things, and intrigue in alternate outcomes of wars have been the source of many stories in the realm of fiction. The Allied forces fought in Europe to keep a maniacal dictator from spreading his influence over Europe and indiscriminately exterminating all those deemed undesirable. This much, the history books explain, but there are also untold stories of soldiers and officers with the Axis forces who were not fanatically devoted to Hitler’s visions. As the Nazi leadership became more untenable, many would begin wondering what they were fighting for, and whether or not what they were fighting for held any value. This is the story players see through Müller, who beholds the destruction and death that Hitler’s decisions had brought on the German people: increasing doubt and concern when leadership fails, and lingering questions as to whether or not alternatives, such as surrendering, are viable. A successful leader is one who can sway the minds of the moderate, who are likely the majority, and when one has a majority, they can realise their vision. When this majority begins faltering, and the leader loses the confidence of their people, they can no longer realise their vision regardless of how fanatical their most loyal supporters remain. By bringing this perspective of World War Two, Battlefield V gives a very brief sample of what a World War Two game written from the Axis perspective would be like: lacking a sense of heroism and accomplishment, players who finish a game about the Axis powers would come away with doubts about the value of conflict. Such a game could be a very sobering and instructive experience, representing a very novel and unique experience compared to other World War Two shooters available.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Ordinarily, I drive a tank with the camera directly behind me, or else from within. The Last Tiger does things very differently than the multiplayer, rather similar to how Battlefield 1‘s Storm of Steel modified the Mark V’s mechanics so that players could take the campaign in a more relaxed manner than in the multiplayer. After a few minutes, the novelty wore off, and I progressed with the mission, which is set in the ruined streets of Cologne: at this point in the war, Nazi forces had been pushed back into Germany by the Allied forces, who were nearing victory.

  • The Tiger I is one of the most iconic German tanks from World War Two, being famous for its legendary firepower and ability to shrug off damage from almost all Allied tanks. Despite its fearsome reputation, however, the Tiger I was also a fickle tank, being quick to break down, and was very expensive to manufacture. While superior to the American M4 Sherman and Soviet T-34 in terms of durability and firepower, Tiger Is were produced in sufficiently small numbers to have had a minimal outcome on the war.

  • By the later days of the war, British engineers had designed new kinetic penetrators that could deal damage to Tiger tanks at range, while American tacticians focused on using anti-tank guns rather than other tanks to deal with Tigers. The Soviets, in their typical manner, deployed the SU-52, whose 152 mm main gun was more than sufficient to turn Tiger tanks into scrap metal. While technology advanced, the once-mighty Tiger would come to represent a German war machine no longer able to keep up with the Allies’ superior resources and resourcefulness.

  • The Tiger II was an upgrade to the Tiger I, featuring sloped armour that gave it additional protection and a 8.8 cm KwK 43 gun: an upgrade over the Tiger I’s Kwk 36, the Kwk 43 had a longer projectile whose increased length and propellant resulted in a higher muzzle velocity that gave it improved penetration at range. The Tiger II, Panther and Jagdpanther are noticeably absent from Battlefield V, as is the Jagdtiger.

  • Driving through the ruined streets of Cologne gives a very desolate feeling, one that I have not felt from a video game since the days when I played Sniper Elite V2. My original interest in Sniper Elite V2 came from the game giving players a chance to fight through the Flaktowers of Berlin, and my journey to land headshots took me through Berlin towards the latter day of the war.

  • Players will face the M4 Sherman during The Last Tiger: this medium tank was the most widely-produced American tank of World War Two and when introduced, it was able to deal with the weaker German tanks without much issue during North African campaigns. American military leadership never felt the need to produce a heavier tank, feeling that the logistics of supplying and maintaining heavier tanks, plus their limitations in traversing over terrain, would make heavy tanks unviable. While Shermans would be upgraded with a 76mm gun (from its original 75 mm gun) or the Ordnance QF 17-pounder, American forces opted to engage the Tiger tanks by means of numerical superiority and logistical support rather than introducing heavier tanks.

  • In The Last Tiger, M4 Shermans can be destroyed in as little as two shots, and players have access to unlimited ammunition, as well as unlimited repairs: I long imagined the lessening repair effectiveness in Battlefield V‘s multiplayer to be a bug, but it turns out that this is by design. Players operating tanks are forced to rely on resupply stations to for ammunition, and while they can self-repair tanks, friendly support players and resupply stations are much more effective. Their vulnerabilities mean that tanks are actually quite ineffective in open maps of conquest, where long lines of sight allow enemies to quickly spot armour and bring them down.

  • By comparison, more linear game modes like rush and frontlines allows tanks to be devastatingly effective. Back in the campaign, despite the sense of desolation, players still feel powerful as they single-handedly engage M4 tanks without much resistance. The Last Tiger is an excellent opportunity to experience how fearsome the Tiger I was – in the multiplayer, Tiger Is can be torn to shreds by a few coordinated assault players and feel distinctly underpowered, but here in the campaign, very little stands in Müller’s way as he pushes forward with his objective.

  • This is probably the feeling one might expect from the Tiger I: the Tiger I brings to mind Maho Nishizumi of Girls und Panzer, who operates a Tiger I numbered 212 in reference to Michael Wittmann, a well-known German tank commander during World War Two. Despite her cold mannerisms, Maho is shown to be compassionate and kind-hearted; Shiho is similarly caring for her daughters despite any outward appearances, and this side of her personality is shown in Girls und Panzer: Motto Love Love Sakusen Desu!, which showcases various characters in everyday situations outside of Panzerfahren. In particular, Shiho has attempted to make amends with Miho in Motto Love Love Sakusen Desu! with a party, but ended up frightening Miho away with how ostentatious things were.

  • Shiho’s beliefs were not quite as well established when Girls und Panzer first aired, and so, were the subject of no small discussion some seven years previously. I watched this one from the sidelines: at this time of year, I was pushing through my undergraduate thesis and did not have time to spare for much else. In retrospect, I am very glad to have done this: when Girls und Panzer‘s final two episodes aired, I enjoyed both, wrote about them and then went on my merry way, leaving the flame war’s participants to their devices. Going through Girls und Panzer and hearing that the second instalment of Das Finale will come out in June has me wondering if DICE will make good on their live service model to add more content into Battlefield V‘s multiplayer in the way of new maps and factions.

  • At this point in time, I’ve almost got eighty hours in Battlefield V, meaning that I’m very close to breaking even (I believe that when I get a dollar per hour out of a game, I’ve gotten my money’s worth). The Tides of War have certainly kept me entertained –  I’ve played more Battlefield V than I did Battlefield 1 during the same period because there’s been a deep progression system and things to do each week, but admittedly, playing on the same maps gets dull fast. At this point in time, I have learned the maps well enough to anticipate where players are, and even campers blending in with the environment prove to be a lesser concern than the lingering question on my mind.

  • Battlefield V is supposed to be introducing the Firestorm Battle Royale game mode very soon, and admittedly, I have no interest in this mode whatsoever. I understand DICE’s wish to capitalise on the market demand for Battle Royale, but the game type never really appealed to me, and it’ll likely just remain unplayed. I would personally like to have more maps, more iconic battles and more factions. Back in the campaign, having pushed through the level and having melted all opposition in my path, the skies begin darkening as nightfall sets in. The mission, while largely set in a tank, has some segments where players will get to play as Müller while on foot.

  • The MP-40 makes a return here, and while on foot, it’s a solid all-around weapon for engaging American soldiers at close quarters. For the first time in a shooter, I was able to understand what the enemy was saying without the need for subtitles: having played Wolfenstein, I became accustomed to hearing enemies converse in German, and here, it was a little jarring. I ultimately did not manage to complete the stealth requirements for the challenges here, and ended up shooting my way through the entire segment of this war story.

  • This past weekend was quite busy: after an intense work week, I spent a Saturday afternoon at a shopping centre updating my wardrobe for spring, which has finally begin to arrive. After enjoying the best burgers, Russet fries and root beers this side of town, I picked up a beautiful new wristwatch in addition to shirts for the warming weather. I’ve had the old watch since I wrote the finale review for Gundam Unicorn – this watch had been with me to France, Cancún, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan; it’s a little worn and the gears aren’t in the best shape, but I was a little sad to decommission it. This new watch is a bit of a fashion statement, deliberately chosen it for its bronze highlights, distinct frame and the fact that it was on sale for five-eighths off, and I hope it’ll have a good run.

  • Yesterday was the spring lunch for my dōjō: I reached ni-dan a year ago, and while my new belt has not arrived yet, I certainly do feel a bit more with teaching and concepts than I did even a year ago. I spent most of the class helping set up the tables and transporting the food, and while the turnout this year was not quite as large as it was in years previously, it was still a good event with dragon dances and old karate films, as well as plenty of food (meat skewers, pot stickers, sweet-and-sour pork, spicy ginger beef, spring rolls, fries, fried noodles, fried rice, fried chicken, you get the picture). After the lunch ended and I had helped clean up, I took off to watch Captain Marvel with a friend who was in town. I found the movie a solid one, and while perhaps not as inspired or hilarious as Thor: RagnarokBlack PantherAvengers: Infinity War or Guardians of the Galaxy, it was a good movie in its own right that sets the stage for the upcoming Avengers: Endgame.

  • With no inclination for stealth, I ended up blasting my way through the American soldiers in the area to reach the documents. There was a similar mission in Sniper Elite V2 that saw me sneak through an empty but guarded building to locate documents relevant to the V2 programme. In Sniper Elite V2, shooting the fuel cap on a Tiger I was enough to destroy the entire tank; while unrealistic by all counts, it was a fun feature that allowed players to go toe-to-toe with armour with naught more than steady aim. I believe I got the title for five dollars, beat it once and then that was it.

  • I realise I’ve spent a great deal of this post going off-topic – the reality is that The Last Tiger is very straightforwards in its gameplay, and there aren’t very many unpleasant surprises in this mission. The Tiger I is capable of blasting all opposition into hunks of metal, and players only need to aim, fire and then take cover to repair as required; beyond this, The Last Tiger is a cinematic experience highlighting desperation in a losing war.

  • The final act of The Last Tiger is set in the burning ruins of Cologne, as Müller and his crew must fend off waves of Allied tanks. Players must contend with the T34 Calliope, which are modified Sherman M4s with a dedicated rocket launcher system so named for its unusual appearance. They can deal some damage to the player at range, so taking them out is a priority whenever they appear. The flaming cityscape screams desolation, and it is quite easy to see how this Tiger I crew, having held out for this long with a steadfast determination, begin losing resolve as their whole world appears to go up in flames.

  • This battle is intense, and despite Müller’s best efforts to stem the Allied advance on his own, the cathedral is overrun. German command orders him to retreat over the bridge, but before he can cross, the bridge is destroyed. This bridge is modelled after Cologne’s Hohenzollern Bridge, which crosses the Rhine River. With this post done, the last of my war stories posts is completed, and the next time I write about Battlefield V will be about the multiplayer, should there be new maps to explore. Insofar, Battlefield V‘s superior weapon mechanics and progression system have been held back by a lack of information: while I’m having fun with the game, it’s a bit problematic to not know what’s coming up next for the title.

  • While Battlefield V has proven to be a fun game, it appears that the franchise is struggling to decide what its next steps will be. The end result is that Battlefield V has not been as smooth as it could have been, although in hindsight, I don’t regret picking up Battlefield V. Having unlocked almost everything of note, it means that should I choose to direct my time elsewhere (say, The Master Chief Collection), I still have gotten reasonable value from Battlefield V. It would be a shame if iconic World War Two weapons, locations and battles never make it into the title (I would’ve liked to run more Strike Witches and Girls und Panzer loadouts), but I probably won’t be losing too much sleep over what could have been, as I reacquaint myself with the likes of Blood Gulch (Halo: Combat Evolved), Lockout (Halo 2) and Reflection (Halo: Reach).

With this post, I’ve finally finished writing about the war stories of Battlefield V: The Last Tiger brings a different style of gameplay with respect to tank operation, and as I came in with some experience from the multiplayer, things were a little unusual. Unlimited ammunition and self-repair capabilities makes Müller’s Tiger I much more survivable than any tank I’ve operated in the multiplayer, and players cannot actively switch between a third-person and first person view. Instead, the game locks players to an over-the-shoulder camera with options for optics. These decisions were made to purely accommodate the story (I can imagine that limited ammo and repairs against large numbers would be considered unfair), and while making it easier to take in the story, also means that the war story cannot be really considered to be a tutorial for the multiplayer. The Last Tiger is also unique among the war stories for being the only story to offer a vehicle skin on full completion, and for being added to Battlefield V separately after launch. It is a shame that despite their modular design, no more war stories will be added; the voice acting and set-piece creation is an intensive process that would divert resources from improving multiplayer and adding new content, and so, I can understand the decision to not add new war stories. With this being said, The Last Tiger was a welcome addition to the game and definitely does keep in line with Battlefield V‘s war stories, that deal with perspectives that are less explored. However, since players are focused on the multiplayer, that’s where DICE’s resources should be going, and moving ahead, I am hoping that DICE makes a massive push with respect to their content; the basic gameplay is now stable, and the Tides of War have steadily added weapons and vehicles. What Battlefield V is missing is new maps, and new factions. Bringing these into the game would transform a minimally-viable game with solid mechanics into a memorable and long-lasting shooter that could (and should) break Battlefield from the mold that bi-yearly releases have wedged the game into. Supporting a single title for longer would create a game with extensive replay value, and especially with the news of Halo: The Master Chief Collection coming to PC, DICE will need to put in an effort to convince me that Battlefield is a comparable shooter to the likes of Halo.

Tom Clancy’s The Division 2: Viewpoint Museum, Superior Gear and a Reflection on the Open Beta

“Being a victim is more palatable than having to recognize the intrinsic contradictions of one’s own governing philosophy.” ―Tom Clancy

The Division 2′s open beta ran three weeks after the private beta, adding one new mission and raising the level cap; since the private beta, the open beta has shown that the game has become a bit more stable and responsive. After speedily making my way through the first two campaign missions, and utilising the experience bonuses to quickly hit the minimum level needed to take on Viewpoint Museum, I finally arrived at the new level. The journey here was a quick one, but upon revisiting Washington D.C. in the open beta, I found that the new setting isn’t a bad one after all – the empty streets of Washington D.C. no longer feel quite so sterile, and there are more activities to do while one is moving around on the map. Handling has also been improved since the private beta; my character feels more responsive, and I no longer stagger whenever my armour is depleted. However, some bugs in the movement system still persist: I find myself getting stuck after interacting with doors and keypads, and there was one instance where I was unable to move after attempting to open a supply drop. Beyond minor grievances with movement, which can be the difference between life and death, The Division 2′s open beta shows that the title is largely ready for launch. Even on my older computer, I was able to maintain a smooth sixty frames per second, dipping down to fifty in more intense moments, and on the whole, the gunplay feels much more satisfying at lower levels than they did for equivalent levels in The Division.

After completing Viewpoint Museum, I went back into the Dark Zone to quickly hit the maximum Dark Zone level: normalisation of gear has made the Dark Zone a lot fairer, and while I was clearing landmarks on my own, a pair of players decided they wished to go rogue against me. Equipped with a good knowledge of my preferred skills, how my weapons handled and familiarity with the mechanics as a result of the private beta, I ended up squaring off against both agents head-on and managed to defeat them. PvP combat never really was my cup of tea in The Division, but The Division 2′s normalised Dark Zone provide a rather interesting environment to fight in: all players have an equal chance here. This particular Dark Zone is a bit small, but there are other Dark Zones, including at least one where players go in with their regular stats, allowing individuals to experience the Dark Zone as they please. Besides destroying rogue agents, I also successfully completed through the Jefferson Trade Centre Invaded mission, solo, with the demolitionist specialisation. It turns out that the M32 MSGL is an absolute terror, and upon encountering the named elites, I was shocked to learn that the grenades could bring down these enemies in one shot. Again, experience with the private beta meant that I had no difficulty melting my way through the Black Task on my own. With this particular experience under my belt, I spent the remainder of my time on improving my loadout and finishing off all of the different projects to upgrade the Theatre Settlement.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While LMGs in The Division became obsolete very quickly, I found that at all points in The Division 2, from the story missions to the endgame, LMGs were versatile, viable weapons that could hit reasonably hard and put down sustained amounts of damage downrange, making them especially useful against crowds and heavily armoured enemies. I spent most of Friday evening working my way back to the point where I could complete this mission: my progress from the private beta did not save, and I took advantage of this to run a new character.

  • The Viewpoint Museum is based off the Newseum, a museum that showcases a history of journalism. The locations of Washington D.C. are faithfully replicated, and looking at a map of Washington D.C., it is quite impressive as to how accurate The Division 2‘s D.C. are to the real-world equivalent. In the beta, much of the map remains locked, and in the full game, I imagine that players will be able to visit Capital One Arena, home of the Washington Capitals.

  • It seemed curious to be fighting a building about the history of journalism, with the intent of shutting down the True Sons’ propaganda broadcast: the True Sons are probably most similar to the LMB, being well-trained and well-organised. They were formed by a former JTF officer who was disillusioned with how things were handled following the Dollar Flu crisis, and are probably the most lethal enemy players will face until the Black Tusk arrive.

  • Despite Ubisoft’s reassurances that The Division 2 is not directed at conveying a political message about the current state of government in the United States, and the fact that the game is ultimately about showing how people can come together to survive and overcome adversity, some game journalists have insisted on pushing their own narrative. Arguing that The Division is symbolic of using force to take back a fallen system, journalists claim that it is “[disrespectful to] the intelligence of the players” to claim that the game is apolitical because of its symbolism. The page quote is one of Tom Clancy’s very own remarks, speaking succinctly to my own thoughts on the presence of virtue signalling and the excesses that accompany it.

  • While all people are entitled to their opinion, it is disrespectful to suppose that the creator’s intent is irrelevant when considering the merits of a game and its messages. It typifies games journalists of a certain type to insert their discourse into something meant to entertain players: this issue has been especially prevalent since an incident some five years ago that threw the practises of gaming journalists into the open, although I personally find the discourse that such journalists raise to be largely irrelevant to my own perspectives of a game. Simply put, gameplay mechanics and progression matter much more to me than political messages.

  • I ended up running an M249B throughout most of The Division 2: the hordes of enemies that storm the player means that for most mid-range engagements, my assault rifle would run dry after three enemies, and being caught in the open with an empty chamber spells certain death. Throughout The Division 2, I switched between the different kinds of weapons, and found that the weapons’ different performances are much more pronounced than they were in The Division: every weapon has a role to play now, and so, it is useful to carry a range of weapons now.

  • The final stage of taking back the Viewpoint Museum involves disabling EMP jammers on the rooftop, while simultaneously engaging True Sons. The EMP will prevent players from using their skills and also introduce a considerable amount of visual disruption on the screen, so it is imperative to take the jammers down right away. Once this is done, players will square off against the named elite that appears.

  • During the course of The Division 2‘s open beta, I found that enemies of all difficulties, from basic enemies right up to the named elites, all were relatively straightforwards to engage at all levels. When I first played The Division, enemies with yellow health bars were always intimidating to fight, and that The Division 2‘s enemies never invoked a sense of fear in me the same way the toughest enemies of The Division did suggest that I’ve since become more familiar with the mechanics of The Division. With this being said, the First Wave agents that were the bosses of Legendary missions were absolutely monstrosities to fight, and could easily wipe the careless teams out wholesale. I imagine that these enemies will be present for The Division 2‘s equivalent of legendary missions, such as raids.

  • Having completed the Viewpoint Museum with minimal difficulty, I had now caught up with the open beta’s experiences and soon turned my attention towards maxing out my Dark Zone rank for a second time. The Dark Zone available in The Division 2‘s open beta was about the same size as one of the sectors in The Division‘s Dark Zone, but despite this, seemed to offer plenty of opportunity for exploration. Randomly roving bands of enemies are absent, as most enemies seem concentrated around the landmarks.

  • During my run in the Dark Zone, I never bothered extracting any items since the gains from a successful extraction seems outweighed by the risk of losing it. However, I did have two separate instances where other players turned rogue in my face, hoping to score a quick kill, and I ended up pasting them on the pavement: this fellow here opened fire on me, and I happened to have my M249B out: its large ammunition pool mean that while he was stuck reloading, I could continue to lay down fire, eventually downing him.

  • I brought down another rogue agent using a superior CTAR-21: during the course of the open beta, I found two superior items in my travels, and their performance gave me a very minute edge over would-be assailants. The sum of my experiences in The Division 2‘s Dark Zone meant that it would be worthwhile to buy the game just to cause trouble for the agents that would turn rogue: normalised gear means that winning a firefight with other players boils down to better spatial awareness, weapon control and skill management. Against individual rogues, they simply stand no chance.

  • I decided to give the endgame Invaded mission another go, and this time, rolled with the demolitions expert loadout. This specialisation gave me access to the M32 MSGL, a six-shot grenade launcher. There’s a special way of improving one’s odds of acquiring signature weapon ammunition: with the marksman, it was nailing headshots, and with the demolitions expert, it’s using explosives or weak-point kills. I had no shortage of 40 mm grenades during my second solo run, and this time, with improved map knowledge, I made it through the first corridor without too much trouble.

  • I decided to save the 40 mm grenades for a named elite, and I was horrified with its effects. Unlike the TAC-50, which requires a direct line of sight and is better suited for long-range operations, the M32 MSGL’s indirect fire capabilities means that it is capable of being used against enemies in cover. I fired off one grenade in the ISAC Terminal room, and killed the named elite in one round, preventing the shutdown of the ISAC Terminal in record time. I subsequently used the grenades to annihilate hordes of enemies: the grenades appear to be capable of doing up to 500 thousand points of damage.

  • The biggest disadvantage about being a solo player is simply the risk of being flanked is increased by several fold: blindly charging into a new area without being mindful of enemy placement is the surest way to death, and I’m sure that many games journalists of late don’t know this simple, but effective trick to staying alive longer. When I entered this room, I had no idea where the enemies would spawn from, and so, threw my auto-turret into the center. The turret is very effective at whittling down health of enemies, and can be set to lock onto drones, as well: any complaints that the skills are ineffective are a consequence of not experimenting and doing some reading on what the different specialisations have.

  • I feel that for gaming journalism to be more relevant, organisations would need to encourage their staff to cultivate a more satisfactory understanding of game mechanics, as opposed to tangential matters that do not impact gameplay. For me, I had no trouble blasting my way through the Black Tusks at this point: the M249B was my go-to weapon during this run, and I was very impressed with how LMGs from The Division 2 handle: assault rifles no longer deal bonus armour damage, and extended mags have a unique set of drawbacks that force players to be mindful of how they mod their weapons. As such, for their impressive ability to suppress enemies and sustain fire, they are excellent for solo players to control large numbers of enemies.

  • When the named elite appeared, I lured him into a narrow corridor and equipped the M32 MSGL: I was fully expecting a challenging fight ahead, as the elite here has an RPG of some sort that can one-shot players from full health, but I was left speechless after absolutely shredding the elite with a single shot. This brought my second end-game run to an end, and I leave finding the demolitions specialisation one that could be very entertaining for close-quarters maps.

  • Exploration found the starting area to be revisitable, and here, I pass through the area The Division 2‘s beta began in. Compared to three weeks ago, the weather back home has remained bitterly cold, and we’ve broken some records now. Besides being the fourth coldest February in the city’s history, we’ve had more than four straight weeks where the temperatures have not broken above 0ºC. To stave off nearly a month of non-stop cold, I stepped out to an Irish Pub on Friday for some hearty Irish classics: a piping-hot Steak and Guinness pie with large chunks of beef and root vegetables proved more than sufficient for warding off the cold.

  • Having said this, it looks like temperatures will finally warm up at least a little in the upcoming while. Despite being nowhere near as warm as the atmosphere conveyed in The Division 2, anything above zero is considered balmy for me. The Division 2, being set in the summer, definitely gives off a sense of warmth, even mugginess: the lighting has vastly improved over The Division, and here, I stopped to admire the volumetric lighting streaming between the trees while pushing to complete more of the activities for the settlement projects.

  • Unlike the private beta, I had a bit more spare time available over the weekend to complete the settlement projects in full. The Division 2 offers plenty to do, and it’s clear that the game has taken the lessons of The Division to keep things engaging for players en route to the endgame, as well as during the endgame itself. With this post on The Division 2 at a close, readers left wondering about my writings in March won’t need to worry: I do have a few more posts on games upcoming, but coming up next will be a lengthy post on CLANNAD ~After Story~ as Ushio’s arc concludes, and then a reflection of why I felt the ending in ~After Story~ was one that was appropriate for the story.

  • This is my final loadout from the open beta: I ended up collecting quite a number of specialised assault rifles during my run, as well. On the whole, my final loadout for The Division 2‘s open beta proved to be rather more impressive than the one I had after The Division‘s open beta: this particular arsenal will be moot, given that all progress will reset once the game goes live, but I’m still very pleased to have found a superior CTAR-21 and backpack during my run. All of this was accomplished without using any exploits or tricks; I was able to find everything just from normal gameplay.

Overall, I spent around eight hours in The Division 2′s open beta. During this time, I acquired more specialised gear than I had expected, and even managed to find two pieces of superior gear. My experiences in The Division‘s beta and the final game showed that the superior items would appear much later in the game than they did in the beta: it wasn’t until level twenty where I began seeing purple drops. This open beta was exceptionally fun and also illuminating in that it helped me reached a more informed decision on where I stand with The Division 2. On one hand, Washington D.C. has proven itself to be a distinct and engaging setting to fight in. New mechanics show that The Division 2 has definitely applied the lessons learnt from The Division to create a more compelling experience. Crafting and inventory management has seen vast improvements over its predecessor, and this time, shooting is much more satisfying even when one has not reached the endgame. While some issues remain with the movement system, The Division 2 has made considerable strides since its private beta. All of this is very positive for the game, and I expect that fans of The Division will definitely enjoy this one upon its launch. However, having said this, I do not see myself pre-ordering The Division 2 or purchasing it shortly after release for two reasons – I already have a considerable backlog of other titles that I’d like to go through, along with quite enough to do in the foreseeable future. It does not appear in my best interest to buy a title at launch, only for it to accumulate dust in my library. Instead, what will likely happen is that into the future, once I’ve made enough headway in my backlog, I will pick up The Division 2. In all honesty, this does seem like a game that merits purchase at launch price, and I think that anyone familiar with The Division will do well to grab this one.