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Star Wars Battlefront II: A Reflection of Starfighter Assault and Space Gameplay in the Open Beta

“It’s no good, I can’t manoeuvre!”
“Stay on target.”
“We’re too close!”
“Stay on target!”
“Loosen up!”

–Gold Leader and Gold Five, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

If I had been active as a blogger back during the early 2000s, Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader would certainly have been featured as a game I would write about. Featuring ten single player missions and several bonus missions spanning the original triology, Rogue Leader boasted some of the most sophisticated visual and gameplay effects that could be run on the Nintendo GameCube, allowing players to relive the most famous moments in Star Wars. From the first attack on the Death Star to the Battle of Hoth and the Rebel Alliance’s final attack on the Emperor’s Death Star II, the game’s technical sophistication and enjoyment factor led many critics to remark that this game alone was worth buying the GameCube for, and indeed, even fifteen years after its launch, only Pandemic’s Star Wars: Battlefront II in 2005 can even hold a candle to Rouge Leader. However, this year’s reinterpretation of Battlefront II comes the closest to bringing back the sort of magic that was available in Rogue Leader, for in Battlefront II, there is the Starfighter Assault game mode that pits players against one another in beautifully written space battles. In the Battlefront II open beta, players are assigned to the Rebel Alliance or Galactic Empire over the shipyards of Fondor. In a multi-stage battle reminiscent of the Rush and Operations game modes of Battlefield, Imperial pilots must deplete the Rebels of reinforcement tickets and defend a Star Destroyer in dry dock, while the Rebels aim to take down the Star Destroyer. Players get their pick of three different classes of starships: the balanced all-rounder fighter, high-speed dogfighter interceptors and the slower but durable bombers, each of which can be customised with star cards to fit a player’s style.

The epic scale of ship-to-ship combat in Starfighter Assault is quite unlike the infantry-focused Galactic Conquest: the space battles of Battlefront II were developed by Criterion, of Burnout and Need For Speed fame. I jumped into a game and attempted to steer my X-Wing with my mouse, but promptly crashed. After switching over to the keyboard, I began learning my way around the controls, and within minutes, was pursing Imperial TIE fighters and firing on objectives. Unlike Battlefront, where starships had the manoeuvrability of a refrigerator, the controls in Battlefront II are responsive and crisp. As I became more familiar with the ships available, I began climbing scoreboards, shooting down more enemy starships and playing objectives more efficiently. The sheer scope of Starfighter Assault and the easy-to-pick-up-but-difficult-to-master design of this game mode makes it incredibly fun and with nearly unlimited replay value. While playing the Imperials, I focused on shooting down Rebel ships, and as a Rebel, there was the challenge of finishing the objectives without being shot down. Regardless of which team I played for, there was always a great satisfaction in landing killing shots on enemy starfighters and going on kill-streaks that I never was able to manage in Galactic Assault. It got to the point where I improved sufficiently to have the chance of making use of three of the four Hero ships. Automatically locking onto an enemy starfighter à la Battlefront is gone – aiming and leading shots is entirely a skill-based endeavour now, and while Criterion provides a helpful reticule to assist in aiming, it ultimately falls on players to learn how to best move their ships around. These elements come together to provide a game mode that is exceptionally entertaining to play, rewarding skill and encouraging new-time players to try their hand at flying.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Shortly after spawning into my first Starfighter Assault match, I started to use the mouse and promptly crashed into the radar dish; there’s no option to reset or centre the reticule, so if the mouse is moved slightly, it causes the vehicle to drift in one direction. Once I left the mouse alone and began flying with the keyboard, the controls became much more simple to use. Unlike Battlefront, where vehicular handling as as stiff as molasses, the controls of Battlefront II are much smoother. It took a grand total of ten minutes to become accustomed to the system.

  • There are plenty of AI-controlled fighters flying around the map so that players have no shortage of things to shoot at, and here, a seismic charge from the Slave I goes off. They were first seen in Attack of the Clone and create a devastating shockwave that can punch through asteroids. The weapon is fantastic against starfighers, and edges out Battlefront‘s thermal imploders for having the coolest sound in Star Wars; the silence and delay before the full weight of the bass creates one of the most interesting sound effects ever engineered.

  • With their powerful blasters and high durability, bombers are balanced by their lower speeds and manoeuvrability, as well as for the fact that they require more reinforcement tickets in order to spawn into if one is playing as a Rebel. The TIE Bomber makes its first appearance in a modern Star Wars game and I use it to great effect; they’re most useful against the Blockade Runners that appear to reinforce Rebel fighters, but can most certainly hold their own against X-Wings and A-Wings.

  • TIE Bombers were first seen in The Empire Strikes Back, seen dropping proton bombs on the asteroid where the Millennium Falcon was concealed. Players do not have access to the proton bombs for assaulting ground targets, but bombers get access to dual proton torpedoes and missiles. While they have a guidance system that can lock onto enemy ships, secondary weapons can be fired dumb by double-tapping on the button, making it possible to rapidly use them against slow moving or stationary targets.

  • The Rebellion’s workhorse bomber, Y-Wings have been in operation since the Clone Wars, being acquired by the Rebel Alliance before the Empire could scrap or decommission them. The last time I flew a Y-Wing was in Rogue Leader during the “Prisoners of the Maw” mission. In Rogue Leader, the Y-Wing is equipped with proton bombs rather than guided torpedoes, and the ion cannons were forward-facing, only affecting targets in front of the Y-Wing. In Battlefront II, they’re fun to fly, but the cost of spawning in makes it imperative that one focuses on objectives rather than dogfights.

  • TIE Fighters reflect on the Empire’s adherence to Soviet military doctrine: they are inexpensive to produce and the engines are incredibly effective despite their simple design. Lacking shields, a hyperdrive, life-support systems and landing gear, TIE Fighters are incredibly lightweight, and in Star Wars, are shown to be quite fragile compared to Alliance starfighters. However, the TIE Fighters of Battlefront II have a bit more durability and can fire proton torpedoes, making them remarkably fun to fly. TIE Fighters are equipped a laser barrage function that allows the cannons to be fired rapidly to deliver a blistering hail of blaster fire.

  • The Slave I requires only 2500 battlepoints to unlock; it is armed to the teeth, as all of its abilities are offensively driven: besides a concussion missile and seismic charges, it also has access to ion cannons, which slow down enemy ships. Somewhat hard to manoeuvre, it is nonetheless quite durable, and here, I managed to get a kill using the seismic charges. The blast wave is not visible, as I’ve flown from it, but the effects are clear.

  • Light and agile, the A-Wing is the fastest starfighter available to the Rebel Alliance. It is capable of extreme speed, can maintain unbreakable locks onto enemies and is armed with concussion missiles as its secondary armament. I ended up playing the interceptor class far more than I’d expected: the speed of the A-Wing and its Imperial counterpart, the TIE Interceptor, make them incredibly effective in dogfights. Overall, each of the classes have their own merits and are fun to play: they’re versatile to be used in every role, but their abilities and unique strengths allow them to excel at particular tasks.

  • X-Wings gain access to an astromech droid for providing repairs and the power to fire all four laser cannons at once in addition to the standard proton torpedoes that Luke used to destroy the first Death Star in A New HopeBattlefront II brings back the fun I’ve had flying X-Wings in Rogue Leader: for their general all-round performance, I would choose the X-Wing as my preferred starfighter in the game.

  • The visual effects above Fondor are absolutely stunning: space battles haven’t been this immersive since the days of Rogue Leader, and with the Frostbite Engine driving Battlefront II, I find myself wishing for a remastered version of Rogue Leader more than ever. Criterion has done a fantastic job with Starfighter Assault, and looking at the other maps available, it appears that rather than re-living the most famous moments of Star Wars, players will be treated to campaigns set around familiar locations for other Starfighter Assault modes.

  • The battle around Endor will be set in the ruins of the Second Death Star, and players will have a chance to fly Republic and Separatist starfighters in battles set during the Clone Wars. As well, the skirmishes between the First Order and Resistance will also be available in Battlefront II. One of the things I’m hoping to see in Battlefront II will be the appearance of Darth Vader’s TIE/x1, whose innovative designs would lead to the development of the TIE Interceptor and TIE Bomber. One cool feature from Vader’s TIE/x1 would be the inclusion of cluster missiles seen in Rogue Leader, which can lock onto and attack multiple targets.

  • The second phase of Starfighter Assault over Fondor involves Rebel ships attempting to drop the shield generator around the Star Destroyer. Rebel players must fly into a narrow passage way where the generators are held and bombard them. Imperial forces have a simple task: prevent the Rebels from getting into this corridor and damaging the equipment. In the close quarters, I’ve had considerable fun locking onto Rebel ships and, in a manner reminiscent of A New Hope‘s trench run, blowing said Rebel ships away with the TIE Fighter.

  • It suddenly strikes me that I don’t get very much time off elsewhere in the year, making me very appreciative of the extended break. The long weekends also allows me to enjoy a quieter day at home: I spent the morning drafting this talk and reading about overflights in the Cold War, before settling down to a home-made burger with lettuce, tomato, pickles and cheese, along with freshly-made oven fries. Unlike last time, we were more careful with the cooking process, so the whole of the upstairs does not smell like grilled burger. By afternoon, the weather remained acceptable, if somewhat windy, so I spent it hanging out with a friend. After enjoying some cheesecake when I concluded the walk, I continued with my quest to get all the intel in Modern Warfare Remastered.

  • Dinner tonight was a tender and juicy prime rib au jus with mashed potatoes. The pleasant smell of prime rib persisted into the evening, which saw the Calgary Flames best the Anaheim Ducks 2-0 at the Honda Center, bringing a 25-losing streak on their ice to an end. Earlier today, in speaking with a friend, we’ve now set aside some tentative plans to watch The Last Jedi: a new trailer has come out, and I’m rather curious to see what the film will entail, for Rey, who will begin training with Luke, and also for Kylo Ren. At this blog, I don’t usually talk about Star Wars, but it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that I’ve got passable knowledge of Star Wars lore. I’m quite fond of the films even if the dialogue can be a little poor (especially in the prequel trilogy, where it was downright atrocious) and if the narratives are a bit thin: the scope and scale of the special effects are always fun to watch.

  • While they never co-existed, having disappeared while being transferred to the Jedi Council for investigation, Darth Maul’s Scimitar is included at Fondor. Its most novel ability is being able to cloak and conceal itself from all enemies: I recall shooting at a player with the Scimitar, only for them to disappear. When reappearing, its blaster cannons gain a boost in power. In the thirty seconds I flew it (the match ended shortly after with a Rebel victory), I did not make use of its abilities to shoot down any players. However, the fact that I was becoming sufficiently proficient in Starfighter Assault to acquire the top-tier Hero ships shows that the game mode had been very immersive.

  • This was probably one of the best runs I had in Starfighter Assault: after spawning in as a Y-Wing and going on a seven-kill streak, on top of helping damage the Imperial Cruisers and equipment, I amassed an obscene number of battle points. I was blown out of the sky shortly after but had accumulated enough battle points to spawn in as the legendary Millennium Falcon, Han Solo’s signature ship throughout Star Wars.

  • Being Han Solo’s highly modified freighter, the Millennium Falcon is one of the most recognisable ships from Star Wars that goes on to play a major role in helping the Rebel Alliance toppling the Empire. Besides an afterburner that proved fantastic for escaping pursuing fighters and concussion missiles, the Millennium Falcon’s other ability is called “special modifications”, which temporarily boosts weapon damage and reduces overheating. Incredibly durable and agile for its size, the main disadvantage about the Millennium Falcon is that its large profile makes it a highly visible target on the battlefield.

  • One of my favourite features about the Millennium Falcon is not its combat performance, but for the simple fact that after some kills, Han Solo will say something amusing, reflective of his hot-headed, confident personality. The planet and its shipyards were first introduced in a novel for the Extended Universe and accepted as cannon with the 2015 novel Tarkin, although the name Fondor is, amusingly enough, also a brand of German vegetable seasoning.

  • Late was the hour when I managed to spawn into Poe Dameron’s Black One, a T-70 X-Wing that acts as the successor to the T-65B that the Rebel Alliance operated. Requiring more battle points than the Millennium Falcon, I had not intended to fly this, only doing so when I realised I had enough battle points to do so and because the Millennium Falcon had already been taken. Only a few minutes remained in the match, but I made use of Poe’s X-Wing to score a few kills on other players before the game ended. Similar to the standard X-Wing, players can instantly repair with BB-8, and mirroring the T-70’s upgraded weapons, Black One has access to dual torpedoes. There’s also a Black Leader ability, but I never looked into what it does.

  • The Battlefront II open beta ended this morning: it’s a quiet Thanksgiving Monday, and while it would’ve been nice to play a few more rounds of Starfighter Assault, I ended the beta off on a high note: I’ve flown all of the Hero ships in this game mode to some extent. With the open beta now over, regular programming resumes, much as it did two years ago: there’s no GochiUsa to write about, but there is Gundam Origin‘s fifth instalment, which I greatly enjoyed. We’re also a entering the fall anime season now: with Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s Hero Chapter airing in mid-November, the only shows I really have on my radar for the presernt are Wake Up, Girls! Shin Shou and Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou. I also should write about the Call of Duty: WWII open beta, which, I should note, was note quite as enjoyable as the Battlefront II beta.

The words “pure fun” are the most suitable for describing the Starfighter Assault game mode of Battlefront II: the mode feels a great deal as though Criterion applied the lessons learned from Rogue Leader. The game modes are well-structured into distinct phases, but seamlessly woven together. Instead of purely AI opponents, players now have a chance to engage one another, adding a new degree of challenge; gone are enemy fighters that can be shot down, replaced with superior AIs and human opponents, the ultimate challengers. Because players can be assigned to different sides of the story, there is a fantastic opportunity to explore “what-if” scenarios. While I don’t think any of the most iconic missions from the trilogy or prequel appear in the full Starfighter Assault, the concept has proven remarkably fun in the open beta, coming the closest since 2005’s Battlefront II to re-creating the experience that players experienced in Rogue Leader. Coupled with authentic aural and visual elements from Star Wars, Starfighter Assault has proven to be the remastered experience of Rogue Leader that I’ve been longing to experience again since the days when I played the game on a GameCube: I am greatly looking forwards to seeing how the other maps play out, and through the open beta, it is evident that Battlefront II has made a serious effort to bring a critical component of Star Wars into the modern age. If the version we’ve seen in the open beta is an accurate representation of how the game mode will handle in the full game, this is a very compelling reason for buying this game closer to the Christmas season, when the spirit of Star Wars will be in full swing as Episode VIII: The Last Jedi premieres in theatres.

Star Wars Battlefront II: A Reflection of Galactic Assault and Infantry Gameplay in the Open Beta

“Roger roger” –Any B1 Battle Droid, Star Wars

Compared to its predecessor, Star Wars Battlefront II is said to feature substantially more maps, weapons, vehicles and a more involved progression system. In addition, Battlefront II also revisits the Clone Wars in addition to the Galactic Civil War and the latest conflicts between the Resistance and First Order. Having caught my eye back in June, the open beta became available during the Canadian Thanksgiving Long Weekend, and I’ve put in some hours into the game’s available modes during the beta. The first of this is arcade, a simple primer into the game mechanics. I subsequently jumped into the incredibly entertaining Starfighter Assault, before switching over to the two available infantry-focussed game modes, Strike, and Galatic Assault. Strike is similar to Halo’s Bomb mode, which pits two teams against one another; one team must grab an objective and carry it to a destination, while the other team must stop them. Galatic Assault is a variation of Battlefront’s Walker Assault mode: two teams slug it out in a larger, objective-based game mode. In the open beta, the Republic clones fight the Separatist droid armies. The latter are aiming to capture Theed Palace on Naboo to force Amidala to sign another trade agreement, while the Republic must stop the MTT from reaching the palace, and failing this, drive off waves of battle droids. Like its predecessor, Battlefront II possesses a different set of mechanics compared to the shooters I’m familiar with. Blasters do not handle as projectile weapons do, and their low damage results in a longer time-to-kill (TTK) than I’d like – players can duck behind cover once I open fire on them to regenerate their health, and overall, getting kills in Battlefront II feels more difficult than it did in Battlefront for folks starting out: I’ve heard that star cards can boost one’s ability to score kills immensely, but I’ve never been too fond of the system.

Looking past the difficulties I’ve had in scoring kills, Galactic Assault turned out to be much more enjoyable once I understood that kills do not seem to matter in Battlefront II compared to other shooters. In the open beta, Battlefront II certainly seems to be emphasising team play over kills, and it seems that kills are less relevant compared to helping one’s team out. In the scoreboard, the number of deaths a player accumulates over the course of a match are not shown. Assists count for as many points as kills, and the simple act of spotting can yield a large number of points, as is playing objectives. Thus, with this knowledge, I took to the specialist class regardless of which team I was with. Armed with a longer range DMR and a pair of macro-binoculars capable of revealing enemies even through physical obstructions, I settled into a pattern of starting Galactic Assault matches with the specialist class, spotting enemies for my team and picking off the occasional foes from a distance. Once the MTT reaches the Theed Palace, I would switch over to the heavy class, which is equipped with a repeating blaster that is excellent for close quarters engagements, doing my best to either push onto the capture point in the throne room (as a Separatist) or defending the throne room from the droids (as a Clone). By sticking close to my teammates and playing objectives, Battlefront II becomes significantly more fun: towards the end of the beta, I was doing much better, but I find that matches always seem to end too quickly before I can spawn in as a hero. The Strike game mode is oriented around closer-range combat, and I’ve found it modestly enjoyable, similar to drop zone in Battlefront II‘s predecessor, although the mode seems to favour the Resistance: I’ve never lost while playing the Resistance, and I’ve never won as the First Order.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • My immediate impressions of Battlefront II are that it runs surprisingly smooth: I did not configure my game and used the automatic settings, which set everything to the “ultra” preset. Even with everything on full, the game ran at around 80 FPS: considering that my machine’s four and a half years old now, this certainly isn’t bad. Like my original experience with the beta, the first few hours in the game were met with a bit of a learning curve, as I was trying to figure out the game and scoring mechanics.

  • The specialist class is Battlefront II‘s counterpart to Battlefield 1‘s scout class, equipping a semi-automatic marksman rifle and being able to spot enemies with macrobinoculars that can see through walls. These long range weapons are the only viable weapons for engagements beyond 50 metres, and Battlefront II definitely does not reward long range precision shooting over playing the objective with respect to how points can be earned.

  • On the other hand, assists are worth as much as kills, so throughout my time in the Battlefront II beta, I got numerous points for damaging an enemy that was subsequently finished off by a teammate. Battlefront II takes the “Assist counts as kill” mechanic and goes one step further: kills don’t seem to matter as much, and I recall an instance where I got 1200 points simply by helping clear one of the control rooms and then proceeding to unlock the palace doors. I got maybe one kill from it: the grenade I threw slightly damaged the players inside. Here, I sit inside the composite laser turret of the LAAT/i gunship and managed a lucky kill on someone down below: the weapon’s surprisingly challenging to use owing to the laser’s pinpoint precision.

  • I’ve long wished to fly a Naboo Starfighter in a game that isn’t the Nintendo 64 incarnation of Rogue Squadron: after taking to the skies above Theed, I saw an enemy fighter and spent a good three minutes dog-fighting with them before taking them down. The MTT reached the palace shortly after, and the game kicked me out of the Naboo Starfighter elegantly, re-spawning me as a heavy class driod.

  • I’m not sure what the powerful medium range weapon that specialist classes can equip while using infiltration mode is called, but it is quite capable of close range engagements, offering specialists a fighting chance at ranges where faster-firing blasters dominate. The only class that I did not make use of extensively was the officer class: armed with a blaster pistol and able to buff players, it’s a style of play that I’ll need more time than the open beta has available to become familiar with.

  • While providing an infinitely smoother and more enjoyable experience than the Call of Duty: WWII open beta, there are still a handful of UI issues that linger in Battlefront II. The first is that the score feed sometimes displays that I’ve killed a player twice even though I know there was only one target to shoot at, and secondly, the heat metre can sometimes persist after death and not accurately reflect the weapon’s state. Beyond these two minor issues, Battlefront II‘s open beta has been silky smooth to get into.

  • The heavy class gains access to repeating blasters (Star Wars terminology for “automatic weapon”), which are fantastic for clearing out rooms and dealing out a large amount of damage quickly. Accompanying their base loadout is an impact grenade, a turret mode that exchanges mobility for firepower, and a front-facing shield that can absorb incoming fire. It’s the perfect choice for close-quarters combat inside the palace, and the heavy class is surprisingly effective even outside the palace.

  • Here, I manage to shoot a clone trooper off the AT-RT he was piloting to bring his killstreak to an end. The Battle Point system in Battlefront II is a straight upgrade from the battle pick-ups of Battlefront by removing the random chance of finding a power up on the battlefield. Instead, playing the objectives and skill is how to get to the upgraded abilities. However, my gripe with the new system is that matches do not always last long enough for players of decent skill to get to the hero unlocks before the game ends.

  • Over Theed, the amount of detail in the cityscape is incredible, and if this is how Theed looks, I am very excited to see how the rest of the maps look: besides Naboo, Battlefront II will feature Kamino, Takodana, Yavin IV, Kashyyyk, Starkiller Base and even the Second Death Star. Returning from Battlefront are Tatooine, Endor, Hoth and Jakku. I wager that Bespin, Geonosis, Utapau and Mustafar could also come with the DLC.

  • While great for laying down destruction against the MTT and strafing infantry, air vehicles in Battlefront II move a bit too quickly to be effective in a close-air support role. It would make sense to lower the minimum speed for some starfighters to make them slightly more effective for an anti-ground role; care must be taken here to ensure that they do not become too effective, otherwise, game balance would evaporate.

  • The Strike game mode is set on Takodana in and around Maz’s castle, which was destroyed during the events of The Force Awakens. However, I’ve never been able to replicate the First Order victory in this game mode: every game I’ve played with the Resistance, I won. Here, I’m equipped with a faster-firing blaster for the assault class, which has access to a thermal detonator, shotgun and a tracer dart gun. While Battlefront II has proven enjoyable, I sorely miss Battlefront‘s thermal imploder, which has one of the coolest sounds of anything in the Star Wars universe, second only to the Slave I’s seismic charges.

  • I soon jumped over to the specialist class when it became apparent that First Order soldiers would always be coming from the woods and so, I could sit back a distance and put down pot shots. Strike is an infantry-only game mode, and battle points go towards unlocking more powerful infantry units, rather than heroes of vehicles. Like Naboo, Takodana is beautifully rendered. While fun from the Resistance perspective, Strike has been less than amusing when I’ve played as the First Order, whose white armour causes them to stand out from the forest, and whose spawns leave them open to attack from the Resistance.

  • Scope glint is still very much a thing in Battlefront II, helping players quickly ascertain the presence of an enemy sniper and duck for cover. In the long, open spaces in Theed, the specialist class is a great way to open things, allowing one to spot other players and put them on the mini-map. Overall, I’m not too fond of the way the mini-map in Battlefront II works: it highlights the general direction an enemy is in if they fire or sprint, requiring a specialist to manually spot opponents. One of the things that I succumbed to frequently in this beta and the Call of Duty: WWII beta was accidentally mashing “Q” trying to spot enemies.

  • Most players will suggest playing in third person mode, as it offers a bit of a tactical advantage with respect to spatial awareness and in allowing one to peek their corners. For the purposes of discussion, I’ve chosen to stay in first person so that the weapon models can be seen. Iconic weapons, from the Battle Droids’ E-5 blaster, to the Clone Trooper’s DC-15 series, appear in the beta, and one must marvel at the detail placed into rendering them.

  • Frustrations gave way to fun once I slowly began learning Battlefront II‘s mechanics, and what was originally an “unlikely to buy” verdict turned into a “I’ll buy it if there is plenty of content available at launch”. Looking back, I similarly had a bit of a learning curve going into Battlefront‘s beta back in 2015, and it was only after I unlocked the repeating blaster that the gameplay changed. Battlefront II is a bit more skill-based than its predecessor, and after some eight hours with the beta, I’m a bit more comfortable with all of the functions and controls.

  • The MTT assault on Theed is only one of the galactic conquest game modes, and one of the things I’, most curious to see is if iconic battles from the original trilogy and prequels made it into Battlefront II: while Battlefront was stymied by limited content and a low skill ceiling, walker assault proved to be immensely fun, allowing players to re-live the most famous battles of Star Wars in an environment that was of the same scale as those seen in the Battlefield franchise.

  • The only thing left on the schedule for tonight is chocolate cheesecake, and Thanksgiving Monday will afford me with a rare opportunity to sleep in. The Battlefront II beta ends tomorrow morning, which marks a return to Far Cry 4. For Thanksgiving this year, I give thanks for great food and family, warmth, and the fact that there is good in the world worth preserving. Things do look quite grim, but it is my aim to work my hardest and contribute in what manner that I can to things that are for our benefit.

  • With a bit more familiarity in the game, I switched over to the assault class and performed moderately well during one of my last matches, earning enough battle points to unlock Darth Maul. The match ended before I could spawn in, however, and one of the things I’ve noticed while taking on Hero classes is that they’re noticeably weaker than they were in Battlefront. In the close quarters frenzy of Theed Palace, I’ve encountered both Darth Maul and Rey before. In a blind panic, I opened fire on them along with my teammates, and they promptly died before they could retaliate: their lightsabers are no longer one-hit-kills.

  • I feel that the Heroes should have at least fifty percent more health, but the health should not regenerate, and the Heroes with lightsabers should be able to one-shot opponents since they are entering melee range (whereas Heroes like Boba Fett and Han Solo can stay back to engage in ranged combat). Overall, the Battlefront II beta’s infantry combat isn’t terribly difficult to learn, and there are some fantastic set-pieces. I look forwards to seeing what the full game will entail, and wrap up by remarking that the other game mode, Starfighter Assault, was so exhilarating that I’ve got a separate post on it.

The infantry gameplay in Battlefront II is above average on the whole: movement is quite smooth, and I’ve had fun playing in both third and first person mode, but the long time to kill and dependence on abilities over steady aim means that Battlefront II is ultimately less about good shooting and more about who can best manage their abilities, using them effectively during the right times to turn the tide of battle in their team’s favour. The larger maps and spawn system also can make getting back into combat after death a frustrating experience: one can go for long periods without seeing anyone, then die unexpectedly and be sent back to a far corner of the map, resulting in yet another long walk into things. With this in mind, the walk certainly is a visually impressive one: the graphics in Theed, from the large piles of leaves blowing about, to the fantastic architecture and colours, are breathtaking. On several occasions, I’ve wasted some of my battle points spawning in as a fighter for the sole purpose of flying over Theed just to admire the cityscape. One thing is for sure about Battlefront II: it captures the sights and sounds of Star Wars as effectively as its predecessor did. While an absolute audio-visual treat, perhaps even more so than 2015’s Battlefront, the multiplayer infantry gameplay seen so far, while entertaining, alone does not inspire a purchase of Battlefront II at launch price. However, it is still early to be making a decision – we’ve not seen some of the other modes available yet. In addition, the beta does not provide a chance to try out the campaign or single-player arcade modes; if these turn out to drive replayability to a reasonable extent, Battlefront II could very well be worth the price of admissions at launch.

Far Cry 4: Remarks and Reflections at the halfway point

“When the gods want to punish you, they answer your prayers.” —Karen Blixen, Out of Africa

Set in Kyrat, a fictional country in the Himalayas region, Far Cry 4 is the fourth title in the Far Cry series, following Ajay Ghale as he is caught up in a civil war between Pegan Min, the country’s despot, and the Golden Path, a resistance movement, shortly after arriving to scatter his mother’s ashes. Inspired by the Nepalese Civil War, Far Cry 4 is an open-world shooter with RPG-elements: looting, crafting and skill advancement drive much of the game. Shortly after escaping Pegan Min’s palace, Ajay escapes with one of the Golden Path’s leaders, Sabal, and joins forces with them in undermining Pegan Min’s rule, carrying out activities ranging from simple acts such as delivering supplies to Golden Path forces and hunting wildlife in Kyrat to improve his gear, all the way up to direct action involving assassinating key figures in Min’s regime and storming facilities under Min’s control. By the game’s halfway point, players punch through into North Kyrat after having liberated much of South Kyrat and relinquished control of key locations from Min to the Golden Path, bolstering their presence. During this time, I’ve unlocked almost all of the upgrades through crafting, and have acquired some of the most effective weaponry in Far Cry 4. This journey has been incredible insofar, but was initially stymied by a lack of motivation to play the game. Having purchased Far Cry 4 back during the Steam Winter Sale, I opened the title on Christmas Day and liberated my first bell tower shortly after, but the prospect of an open world was admittedly intimidating, and after Christmas, I did not venture into Kyrat. My track record with open-world games is not particularly good: I’ve still yet to beat the main story to Skyrim despite having owned the game for upwards of four years.

This all changed after I began exploring Kyrat, capturing bell towers and liberating outposts. My first goal was to max out my weapon holster, and with the capability to carry more weapons, a world of possibility opened up. I began carrying out more side missions to gain currency and experience. The additional resources bolstered my ability to survive firefights, in turn opening up more missions. Far Cry 4‘s learning curve is not particularly steep, and past the initially imposing task of learning the game mechanics, Far Cry 4 has been an exceptional experience: stealth and brute force are both viable options, with weapons in the game for achieving both. Players are given nearly unlimited freedom in exploring Kyrat and completing the game in any order of their choice, allowing them to optimise for their preferred play-style. Players driven by completionism will naturally unlock most of, if not all the skills, weapons and crafting upgrades in the game eventually, but being able to play according to one’s preferences is a very important factor in retaining the player’s interest. Aside from its fluid gameplay and compelling visuals, Far Cry 4 also has an interesting plot; Ajay has a connection to Kyrat’s dictator, and there’s a fine balance of comedy with drama. Together, these aspects make Far Cry 4 incredibly captivating to play, and over the past two months, I’ve spent upwards of twenty hours in the game. I’ve now reached North Kyrat, and are eyeing the Buzzsaw, which should allow me to even the odds against Pegan Min’s elite soldiers: I’m playing Far Cry 4 solo and so, have no assistance for more challenging missions beyond powerful weapons and performance-enhancing syringes.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Shortly after escaping Pegan Min and acquiring a kukri, Ajay’s adventure begins. I note that I am well aware of the secret ending, that is, what any reasonable person in real life would do, and will mention it in greater detail later – while the most realistic course of action, it precludes my shooting any guns, so on my first playthrough, I’ve decided to focus on a game where I could actually shoot things. The kukri is a capable melee weapon for stealth take-downs and despite the presence of firearms, its usefulness remains throughout the game as Ajay can invest in skills that make him more proficient with the weapon.

  • The AK-47 (actually an AKM variant) is the first assault rifle players have access to in Far Cry 4. An average and unremarkable weapon in all regards, it is one of the most common weapons in the game, and ammunition for assault rifles is never in short supply. I’ve noticed in retrospect that I’ve got a large number of screenshots from the game’s opening moments, and it is because the visuals are impressive, from the water effects to the use of diffuse lighting.

  • The size of Kyrat, in conjunction with how beautifully everything is rendered means that Far Cry 4 is quite demanding when it comes to GPU requirements – the recommended requirements for GPU are steep, being a GTX 680 or equivalent. I originally was running the EVGA GTX 660 SC in my tower prior to last year’s upgrade; this GPU would have been capable of running the game on high settings with acceptable frame rates. A quick glance at these screenshots also show a frame rate counter in the upper left hand corner, and for the most part, I’m getting 75-80 FPS on ultra settings.

  • I had been eyeing Far Cry 4 for quite some time, but it wasn’t until I purchased a new GPU that I decided the time was ripe to give the game a shot. Performance no longer a concern, I began playing the game on Christmas Day prior to the traditional dinner of turkey, stuffing, ham and all of the trimmings accompanying Christmas dinner. As of late, the family Christmas tradition has become spending the day relaxing at home; we had a white Christmas last year and so, it was very welcoming to unwind without having to step into a cold winter’s evening as we were wont to do in previous years.

  • I approach the bell tower here with the goal of capturing it. Bell towers in Far Cry 4 work similarly to their counterparts in older games – the goal is to negotiate with the tricky ledges, ladders and narrow walkways to reach the top, where a radio broadcasting unit is transmitting propaganda. When a bell tower is captured, the fog surrounding it fades away to reveal locations for exploration. Besides bell towers, Ajay must also liberate outposts, which act as hubs for resting, trading and starting missions.

  • One of the earliest missions I did after liberating an outpost was a hostage rescue operation. At the time, I only had one slot for a primary weapon and decided to go with the bow, which was the quietest weapon available at the time. I immediately found it to be inadequately powered against the soldiers, and took to sneaking around the site, performing take downs on everyone before setting the hostages free. Weapon options remain limited in the beginning, but as Ajay completes more for the Golden Path and various other characters, his armoury diversifies.

  • One of the biggest joys about Far Cry 4 is the ability to explore Kyrat in great detail, even if fast travelling between outposts is usually how I prefer moving about to start missions. Unscripted events can happen during these travels, ranging from karma events which require a quick trigger finger to save Golden Path fighters or stop Royal Army elements, to unexpected animal attacks: I’ve been waylaid by rhinos before while driving to a mission, totalling my ride and very nearly killing me. I would’ve died there had I not been near a mounted gun, which I used to annihilate the rhinos.

  • When it became available, I upgraded to the recurve bow, which is a straight upgrade from the standard wooden bow. It can be fitted with a sight (although the elevation markings are just for show) and highly effective as a stealth weapon for longer ranges. Killing animals with arrows will yield bonus karma points and double skin, making it an excellent tool for gathering the necessary skins to upgrade Ajay’s carrying capacity.

  • I unlocked the M-79 break-action grenade launcher during a Kyrat Fashion Week mission, which entailed killing a rare fish with explosives. It is unlocked when players liberate nine bell towers, although the Fashion Week or armed escort missions also will provide the weapon. It is easily the best side-arm Far Cry 4, and despite its low rate of fire, can deal incredible damage, effortlessly destroying enemy vehicles and even helicopters if used correctly.

  • Just how effective is the M-79? This image speaks volumes about what this simple grenade launcher is capable of. Early in the game, it is limited only by how many grenades one can carry, but the results are undeniable. Here, I finish off a propaganda centre mission, which involves destroying a propaganda manufacturing installation and then fending off the hordes of Royal Army soldiers that appear afterwards. Far Cry 4 involves a combination of missions that require stealth and those that necessitate players going in loud, so one of my earliest priorities was getting my weapon holsters up to speed.

  • The final skins required to fully upgrade the holster are from honey badgers, which, despite their small size, are incredibly ferocious and can output damage similar to a bear, tiger or rhino. In fact, their size makes them harder to hit, making them one of the toughest enemies in the game to deal with initially. I recall getting the five skins by driving a technical into an area with honey badgers, throwing down some bait and then levelling takers with the mounted MG. Once I had the holster, I could now carry three primary weapons at once, and for the most part, I prefer having an assault rifle, one suppressed long range option and one specialised weapon.

  • The rationale is simple enough: assault rifles excel at medium range combat and have a good firing rate that allows them to be competitive at close ranges. On top of that, ammunition for an assault rifle is commonly acquired, so there’s very little fear of running short of ammunition. I like having suppressed sniper rifles, as they can be used to dispatch distant foes without alerting other enemies, and the special weapon usually depends on the mission (I usually carry a shotgun). The M-79 rounds things out, being an incredible one-handed anti-vehicle measure that I can employ even while driving or flying. This balanced loadout allows me to be effective in all ranges, although different players have different preferences for loadouts, and some folks will recommend having a bow on them at all times.

  • Here, I am doing a mission for Sabal during a Balance of Power mission. These missions can impact the storyline and decide whose influence amongst the Golden Path increases. By this point in the game, I’ve unlocked and purchased the Warrior, the signature version of the AK-47. Standard AK-47s cannot be modified with optics or barrel upgrades, so the Warrior is an improvement overall, featuring a suppressor, red dot sight and extended magazine. The difference was immediately noticeable, and it was here that I really began enjoying Far Cry 4.

  • The M700 became my sniper of choice once I unlocked it: more accurate and powerful than the SVD, it can be fitted with a suppressor that makes it useful for silently dispatching targets from range. While it is a bolt-action rifle and quite slow to fire compared to the semi-automatic SVD, I prefer it for its firepower and used it to great effect in capturing outposts, as well as for hostage and assassination missions.

  • With my loadout now figured out, the entire world lay ahead in Far Cry 4, and I began exploring with more confidence, knowing I had the tools I needed to survive. There are various items and locations scattered throughout the game that confer experience points and other bonuses, including contributing to new weapon unlocks, so it is well worth it to spend some time and explore locations thoroughly in Kyrat.

  • Besides honey badgers, the other enemy of Far Cry 4 that has little purpose beyond being a total aggravation are eagles. These monstrosities are capable of killing Golden Path soldiers and even carry entire pigs into the air, although thankfully, they are not durable. A single well-placed shotgun blast or assault rifle rounds will be enough to stop them from terrorising Ajay: they can attack out of the blue, but can also be escaped by entering vehicles.

  • Because I opted to go with Sabal’s mission initially, I was given a flamethrower. The flamethrower in Far Cry 4 is a splitting image of its predecessor in Far Cry 3 and is a powerful close range weapon: ignited enemies are quickly taken out of the equation, running around in a panic until they burn to death. While powerful, it is stymied by its high fuel consumption and low range, which has the additional risk of potentially burning the player if they’re not careful.

  • I recall a memorable hostage rescue mission where I had outfitted myself with the MS16 battle rifle. When I opened fire, however, I was shocked to learn of the weapon’s report. It turns out I had not equipped the suppressor as originally thought, and hastened to right things, although I’m not too sure if I succeeded, or if I failed the operation. A reasonably effective weapon at longer ranges, the Ms16 uses assault rifle ammunition and fulfils the intermediate role between that of a sniper rifle and automatic assault rifle, although I generally prefer engagements at closer ranges and so, have not made extensive use of this weapon.

  • One of the biggest challenges in Far Cry 4 up to this point was unlocking the Bushman by competing in the arena. It took me around a week to reach level ten, and while the grind was quite tedious, I did pick up a few tricks by playing the arena; the most useful was the knowledge that Molotov cocktails can essentially one-shot heavies in the absence of other weaponry. I concede that the atmosphere and sound effects of the arena (especially the sound of the doors opening before a round) were fun, and in the end, it were the animals that proved to be the greatest nuisance to defeat.

  • The resulting unlock, the Bushman, was well worth it. It’s an upgraded P416, modelled off the Patriot Ordnance Factory P416 assault rifle, intended to be an upgrade to the M4A1, and despite sharing a very similar name, is quite unrelated to the Heckler and Koch HK416 assault rifle. In Far Cry 4, the base P416 is a slight upgrade from the AK-47, dealing more damage. It is not found until players unlock North Kyrat, but having the Bushmanwith its extended magazine, suppressor and ACOG renders the P416 a moot point: the Bushman is easily the best primary in the game: with a good firing rate, damage model and magazine, it has the additional advantage of being easy to find ammunition for. There are more powerful weapons, but ammunition is less common.

  • The vegetation can be ignited by flamethrower, the Molotov cocktail or even the repair tool: small wildfires can be started that quickly eliminate enemies and wildlife using these weapons. There is one disadvantage: careless fires can also destroy vehicles, and I recall one occasion where I blew up my buzzer because I set the forest on fire trying to take out some soldiers. The buzzer is a helicopter that is the best vehicle for getting around Kyrat bar none: while it will refuse to fly above certain altitudes, its high speeds make it an incredible way for moving from point A to point B.

  • I progress through Kyrat to the City of Pain in order to apprehend de Pleur in his headquarters. That mission proved to be quite an exercise in patience, since I could not simply go weapons loud. After a few attempts using stealth, I succeeded and extracted de Pleur. When the mission was finished, I learned that his fortress was weakened and took it without too much difficulty.

  • The Bull is an upgraded M133 shotgun featuring a reflex sight and suppressor, making it an effective stealthy close-quarters option. I got quite a bit of mileage out of the Bull after unlocking it: it’s capable of dropping most targets with a single shot and was remarkably useful on hunting missions where the goal was to hunt honey badgers. This moment also showcases the beautiful lighting in Far Cry 4: I’ve opted against screenshots of Kyrat by night because it’s actually quite dull-looking.

  • The mission to take back the brick factory and capture a drug scientist proved to be a remarkably entertaining one as Ajay gets drugged up breathing fumes inside the factory. It’s a surprise that would only be surpassed by the first mission to Shangri-la. The Shangri-la missions are quite distinct from Kyrat, and the name will bring to mind James Hilton’s description of a fictional paradise in his 1933 novel, Lost Horizon, although Shangri-la in reality refers to a city in Yunnan.

  • Kyrat fashion week missions involve killing rare animals with a weapon type. Far Cry 4 is nice enough to give players the required weapon, although if one happens to have a weapon of the type specified, the mission can very quickly become a walk in the park. When I reached Far Cry 4‘s halfway point, I had every crafting upgrade completed except for the explosives bag and loot bag. Most guides advise going for the loot bag first, but I personally would upgrade the weapon holster first.

  • The Bushman’s only downside is that the ACOG can be a little tricky to aim with its chevron crosshair, but subsequently, this is the premier weapon to utilise. One thing I’ve neglected to mention up until now are the syringes, which come in five varieties. The most useful one is the healing syringe, which restores health. The hunting syringe is one of my favourites, allowing Ajay to immediately spot enemies and animals without leaving cover. The others, I’ve made less use of despite their powers: the focus syringe allows Ajay to move faster, the overdose syringe somehow doubles weapon power, and the survival syringe is useful for close quarters combat.

  • I’ve made it to Noore’s Fortress after eliminating her in the arena, and armed with the Predator, an upgraded M700 with improved accuracy and magazine capacity. However, it’s got a low rate of fire, and does not hit as hard as the Z93, a powerful rifle firing .50-calibre rounds whose standard version can be equipped with a suppressor and extended magazines. However, it’s still a major upgrade from the M700. I managed to defeat Noore’s fortress quite quickly, picking off distant targets with the Predator and eliminating the rest with the Bushman.

  • The time had finally come for me to complete the missions based out of Kyrat’s “International Airport”, really a landing strip. There are several missions set deep in the Himalayas Mountains, instigated by Willis, an American OGA who appears in Far Cry 3 and is necessary to advance the narrative. He deserts Ajay at the end of his mission line, leaving Ajay to be captured by Yuma and Pegan Min. The subsequent missions proved to be one of the trickiest I’d encountered in Far Cry 4 since the mission to capture de Pleur, and I was most relieved to finally escape the Himalayas camp.

  • Upon returning to Kyrat, the time has finally come to blow open the concrete barrier and punch through into the North. Apparently, my actions have placed Amita in power, so I had to steal a fuel truck while it was still moving. I was unable to gain enough momentum to drive the truck into the barrier, but my immense arsenal allowed me to destroy the barrier anyways. After this came one of the most entertaining firefights I’d ever had in Far Cry 4: with Royal Army soldiers coming from the North, the mortar emplacement proved to be an incredible asset.

  • After a pitched battle, the way North is finally open, which means it’s time to go clearing out the bell towers so I can get my mitts on the Buzzsaw. It’s not a bad place to be, considering that Battlefield 1‘s In The Name Of the Tsar is coming out in September, which corresponds with more Battlefield 1 in favour of Far Cry 4. While we are on the topic of wars being fought in the Eastern front, I will be looking to write about the Brave Witches OVA very soon. My copy’s arrived, and while I’m quite busy, the upcoming long weekend should offer a brief respite that will allow me to take a look at the OVA I’ve been waiting for since December last year.

My impressions of Far Cry 4 are unlikely to change too dramatically as I continue through the game, and I will be returning once I’ve completed the game to discuss a more serious topic, using Far Cry 4‘s narrative as a backdrop. There’s a topic that’s been on my mind for quite some time, dealing with ignorance in issues surrounding nations and the resulting call to action in the absence of a more well-developed understanding of the topics at hand (as well as the usual tendency for discussions to devolve to ad hominem attacks). This will be the basis for the discussion I have in mind for Far Cry 4 once I reach the end-game, and as a fictional experience, I’ve found that Far Cry 4 does a fantastic job of capturing a hypothetical situation where a call to action manifests as direct action. Having said that, it’s largely fun and games as Ajay fulfils the role of a one-man army in Kyrat insofar, blowing up Pegan Min’s armed forces in a hilarious manner and listening to the entertaining radio programmes of Kyrat. While things appear quite easygoing for the most part, the Golden Path’s leaders, Amita and Sabal, express a willingness to go to any lengths to achieve their goals regardless of what implications their approaches entail. This element forms the darker, grittier side of Far Cry 4 that will be explored as I move into North Kyrat and begin liberating facilities, as I’ve done in South Kyrat. Of course, the first goal will be to get the remainder of the bell towers and unlock the Buzzsaw.