The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Gameplay

Battlefield 1: Some remarks on being a marksman

“The role-based approach allows for an agent’s internal data to be structured neatly and also illustrate which parts of this data is shared, complementing object-oriented modelling. This approach is not effective if agents have overlapping or similar roles, since agents could operate on data while in the incorrect role, and the presence of multiple roles may also confuse observing agents that are predicting their behaviour.” -My lecture notes on role-based agents from CPSC 607, Winter 2015 term

Despite being the starting weapon for Battlefield 1‘s scout class, and contrary to uninformed remarks on Japanese Battlefield communities that the weapon is “ugly” or “inadequate”, the SMLE Mk.III marksman variant is perhaps the single most powerful weapon available for this class. The weapon is characterised by a ten round magazine, a moderate firing rate of 53 rounds per minute and a sweet spot spanning 40 to 75 meters. Being a remarkably unremarkable weapon, and lacking the ability to zoom in for sharp-shooting at longer ranges, the SMLE’s statistics sound average on paper – it is in the middle of the pack amongst the bolt action rifles and does not seem to excel at any one role. However, in practise, the weapon is incredibly effective at closer ranges, and with its ten round magazine, is very well-suited for engagements within its sweet spot: ten enemies can potentially be dropped on a single magazine by the most accurate of snipers. The marksman variant’s optics, a moderate-powered sight housed in a bulky enclosure, is initially a hinderance to use owing to how much of the screen it blocks out, but this disadvantage is quickly offset by the fact that the weapon has no scope glint. A careful scout can move into the sweet spot and decimate an enemy position without being spotted as a sniper, before retreating to safer grounds. It is with this weapon that I’ve been playing the scout class, and quite unlike any previous experiences I’ve had with the recon class in earlier Battlefield titles, I’ve been performing extraordinarily well with the SMLE Mk.III, placing close to the top of the scoreboard and making my own quest of unlocking the Kolibri closer and closer to reality.

The scout class has exceeded all expectations for its fun factor. Though I cannot heal, resupply or revive, I can fire spotting flares onto a contested objective and watching the mini-map light up gives my team a sense of what they’re up against. Lining up my optics at the head of an opponent some ways away, tapping “fire” and listening to the visceral “ping” of the round as I drop my target with a single shot has been an incredibly satisfying feeling. To chain consecutive back-to-back kills with the SMLE on a group of enemies bunched together induces a dopamine rush that is quite unlike the feeling I’ve gotten while playing as any of the other classes. The scout class certainly has seen some substantial changes compared to previous entries in the Battlefield franchise, and while fun, Battlefield 1 is where I’ve genuinely felt as though I’m contributing to the team effort despite hanging back from the action. Although a far cry from being in the thick of things healing, reviving and resupplying teammates, making visible enemy players and informing my team of where the enemies are is enough for them to adequately decide how to best handle a tricky capture point. Time and time again, I find myself surprised at just how entertaining it is to roll into battle as a scout, armed with a good rifle and steady aim to help my team out as effectively as I do when I elect to play as a medic or support class. Sniping simply feels fantastic, and nothing is quite as rewarding as picking off targets one after another at range.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Why is there a post coming out this early when I should be at work, designing building iOS apps? Today is Good Friday, allowing me a day off, and after a Chinese-style lunch of beef ho fun, spicy noodles and Hokkein fried rice, in conjunction with Cantonese-style fried chicken, I contemplate my experiences as a scout. In this post, all twenty of the screenshots will be of the scout class, and a very large number of these will feature the SMLE Mk.III. The irony of all this is that during the Battlefield 1 open beta, I remarked that the weapon was quite tricky to use and ended up faring quite poorly when using the weapon owing to a lack of familiarity with its mechanics. I subsequently remarked that the Gewehr 98 might be more appropriate for its faster bullet speed and longer range, but since Battlefield 1 proper, the SMLE Mk.III has been my go-to weapon for everything scout related.

  • The “assist counts as kill” mechanic is something I’ve seen much more of as of late owing to how much time I’ve spent with the scout class: these typically arise when I hit a tricky target at range without killing them outright, and a teammate finishes the job. The teammate landing the finishing blow is credited for the kill, but I also get a kill for my troubles.

  • According to my Battlefield companion app, my longest headshot is 187 metres, although the best headshot I’ve scored in any of my screenshots is roughly 158 meters. I have an inkling that the ultra-long range headshots probably result from an immensely lucky shot made from a vehicle, probably the heavy tank, where I once shot someone camping near the top of Fao Fortress’ at point foxtrot with the passenger machine gun from across the estuary.

  • While snipers may prefer camping at long ranges, my approach is a highly aggressive one: I enjoy sniping at medium ranges and providing support for teammates as I can. During one moment on Sinai Desert, I took out at least four enemy players in a row who were attempting to take capture point delta, allowing my team to re-take it. I’ve found that sniping works best for me on this map if my team has charlie and delta captured, as this allows me to spawn into the town area and pick off anyone coming into town.

  • While best-suited for medium range sniping, the SMLE Mk.III has reasonable hipfire, and here, I down another player who’d surprised me while I was moving between buildings. I’m almost always on the move as a sniper, trying to get close enough to a capture point so that it’s within the sweet spot, and from there, it’s a matter of good aim. A capable mouse is required to aim well in Battlefield 1, and owing to my setup, I find it is often easier to make minute adjustments to my position before firing, since my mouse can be a bit imprecise owing to the lack of a good mousepad.

  • In spite of my team losing this match, I still performed well enough to end the match KD positive. Normally, victory or loss is determined by team composition (i.e. what classes players choose) and their coordination: I typically lose when everyone is unconcerned with objectives, and the page quote comes from my old lecture notes about different means of modelling a multi-agent system. As with a good role-based multi-agent system, performance is best when agents have a well-defined role. In my case, I usually PTFO and make use of my class abilities liberally to help my team, which is why I can end up in the top five of the scoreboards despite having a third or even a quarter of the kills.

  • It’s been some two years since I’ve finished the multi-agent systems course, which I took for the purpose of learning how to formalise and describe agent-based systems within my thesis. It was a fantastic course for all of the learnings I got out of it, and also for the project that saw me build a multi-agent rescue simulation with a team of graduate students. Our approach made use of a combined master-slave approach to link the robots together (they can only dig survivors out of rubble if paired), and subsequently use cooperation by information sharing to decide on the optimal decision. The system proved reasonably effective provided the agents could pair, and if isolated, the agents would fall back on an independent system, although this proved ineffectual.

  • I unlock the service star here for the SMLE Mk.III Marksman, and I remark that the weapon has now become my most used weapon in Battlefield 1, surpassing even the MP-18 Trench and Automatico M1918 Trench: in the narrow streets of Amiens, the environments seem quite unsuited for sniper combat, but the central canal, being lined with houses, proved to be an excellent spot to set up camp and pick off unsuspecting players on the other side of the map.

  • I was quite surprised I could hide in this house here for the period that I did without being zeroed in on and will attribute it to the weapon’s optics. The lack of scope glint on the marksman variant of the SMLE Mk.III is one of its biggest assets: this weapon is not meant to be an ultra long-range weapon capable of taking out someone from obscene distances, and when used in the manner it was meant to be used in, it is devastating. I’ve gone on some kill-streaks where I actually began running out of ammunition because of how many shots were fired.

  • One of the most entertaining match I’ve ever played in Battlefield 1 was against another player who claimed to be an apologist in their user name. They were sitting in an artillery truck and was spamming the chat, insulting other players. When the next match rolled around, I managed to shoot them in the head and, for good measure, did my customary Halo 2 tea-bagging. Subsequently, this player became so angry that they spent the rest of the match calling me names. Plainly lacking anything approaching a post-secondary education (evidenced by their lack of understanding of how the fundamentals of biology works), they went 4-23 for the remainder of the match, standing in stark contrast to the 20-5 they had in the artillery truck the previous match.

  • I couldn’t stop laughing after the match ended, having wrapped it up 21 and 13 (on account of being so close to the front lines to support my team out with captures). I’ve never been too fond of folks who wear their beliefs on their sleeves and make it a point to let the world know what they believe: to see them grow so riled when challenged non-verbally with a teabag was downright hilarious, and I can only wonder what would happen if I were to go down the premium route and teabag such players while sporting an emblem bearing Cocoa Hoto or Miho Nishizumi’s mien…perhaps my emblem would be reported.

  • Reaching past rank four for the scout class means I have access to all of the weapons in the scout class for purchase, but rather than buying things without information, I usually exit the game and then take a look at what’s available among the options that suit my style before spending the warbonds. I’ve purchased the M1903 Sniper already, and it might make sense to look at the Gewehr 98 as the next weapon for slightly longer range firepower. One thing that I did pick up immediately was the hatchet, since that melee weapon can punch through barbed wire and makes it easier to move around.

  • This match on Amiens proved to be incredibly enjoyable: I was landing kills left, right and centre, and even the presence of an armoured train did little to slow me or the team down. Although a bit slower in pacing than the other classes, the satisfaction derived from landing kills with the sniper rifles is immense, and in conjunction with playing the objective, allows me to perform reasonably well. While I spend most of my time in conquest, rush and operations are two other game modes that would be a fantastic place to do some long-range shooting. Conversely, domination and TDM are better suited for close quarters weapons.

  • I paste another fellow’s pate here with the M1903 Springfield’s sniper variant, which has a sweet spot beginning 100 meters out and extends to 150 meters. While the bullet velocity is not remarkably fast in order to balance the weapon out, the shots this weapon places can be quite accurate, making it a good choice for maps with wide open spaces, such as Fao Fortress. The sweet spot mechanic turns the different sniper rifles into CS:GO‘s AWP: CS:GO balances out the AWP in competitive team play by assigning it with a high purchase price in order to offset its one-shot kill power, and even in TDM, where all weapons are free, the best way to deal with an AWP is to keep moving and close the distance, where the AWP’s slow rate of fire makes it less effective.

  • The M1903 also has a marksman variant, but at the ranges I’m typically using it at, having the higher-powered optics makes it easier to see a target at the expense of scope glint. On some maps, the chaos is sufficient so this becomes less of a concern, but when I see scope glint, I duck away for cover immediately, uncertain if I’m about to be one-shotted by a patient sniper.

  • I normally run with the spotting flare and K-bullets, the default gadgets for the sniper class. These two offer the class the most versatility, allowing me to quickly spot opponents and impede vehicles from repairing (or even outright destroy them, if the timing is right). The other gadgets that are highly useful include the tripbomb, which is fantastic for defending a position and prevent attack from behind, and the trench periscope, for its application in peeking over cover to spot enemies and gauge distance.

  • I’m usually a very mobile sniper, unlikely to stay in one spot for extended periods of time, and I always check my surroundings before moving around. A well-coordinated team can still take me out if they so choose, but at the minimum, I’m not totally oblivious to my surroundings – JackFrags has encountered some snipers with serious tunnel vision in his absolutely hilarious video, titled “HUNTING FOR SNIPERS“. Spanning fifteen minutes, it’s done in the manner of a Nature video and provides non-stop comedy for its duration.

  • On a very tight match of conquest on Suez, I managed five headshots in a round. I’m very fond of headshots and will aim for the head for stationary and slow-moving targets, but uncertainty with hitting faster moving targets at range means that I will try for centre mass instead: when I park myself in the sweet spot, I have managed to earn consecutive kills. In some occasions, I’ve even raised my KD from negative to positive owing to the powers conferred by the sweet spot.

  • While the sweet spot is a highly useful mechanic, all of the sniper rifles remain useful outside of these areas. They will take a bit more finesse to utilise properly, and it can be a little tricky to keep a bead on faraway targets obscured by smoke, gas and particle effects. Looking through this post, it is telling that I can tell stories for twenty images’ worth of figure captions with just the scout class alone, and what was initially a class I was apprehensive to try out has quickly turned into a class I’m in love with. In fact, the support class is now my least-used class, but this is likely a consequence of me playing it the wrong way: LMGs are not like their Battlefield 3 or Battlefield 4 incarnations. I have a feeling that playing at longer ranges might turn things around.

  • I wrap this post up with me reaching rank six; I’m now 62.27 percent of the way to my target of reaching the Kolibri for some Hikari-on-Neuroi Hive humiliation. At this point in time, I’ve also reached rank 40 in Battlefield 1: when considering that I’m rank 42 in Battlefield 4, I’ve gotten quite a bit more out of Battlefield 1 despite the latter having less content and unlocks in its progression system. All of these factors together, coupled with the fact that a sale on Battlefield 1‘s premium package is unlikely owing to the game being relatively new, contribute to my decision to upgrade. It brings to mind my decision three years ago to upgrade to premium in Battlefield 3, and that was a decision I’ve never looked back on.

With the incredible amount of fun I’ve had fulfilling the role of a mid-range reconnaissance agent more than capable of holding out against other opponents to capture or defend a point, I’ve advanced from rank one to rank six for the scout class. This means that I’ve now passed the medic and support class in rank, matching my class rank for the assault class. Quite truthfully, this was unexpected, and I had not imagined that the scout class would offer enjoyment of this calibre (I shy away from sniping for the most part in Battlefield 4, although in Battlefield 3, the M98B became my favourite weapon for the sniper class, and I unlocked a service star with it). After some consideration, and a glance at my pocketbook, I have reached a decision – I will be purchasing the Premium upgrade for Battlefield 1 so that I can explore additional maps and access new unlocks. This is not a light decision: Battlefield 1 has kept me entertained to a non-trivial extent, and glancing at my stats, I’ve been improving since I picked the game up. Contrary to prevailing sentiments that the game is growing “stale”, I’ve been finding plenty of motivation to play Battlefield 1. At this point in time, I’ve still not bought all of the weapons and their variants yet, but I am growing a little weary of experiencing the same maps in every match I play (Suez and Fao Fortress are two maps I’ve seen more than my share of); it would be nice to get more variety, and admittedly, I much prefer the French maps in Battlefield 1. Adding Premium to my library will allow me to fight on more French maps, and in the upcoming DLC, I will get a chance to play “Brave Witches in the Frostbite Engine” as the battle takes me into the snowy landscapes of Russia.

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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