Category Archives: PC Videogames

PC videogames – I love PC games, so this will be a pretty full category.

Games of 2010

While I’ve still got a major post (ie; involving lots of screenshots I’ve not finished yet) on a ton of indie games I got in packs in the Steam sales, this is a quick overview of the better games released in 2010 I’ve played; quick because I don’t need to bother with screenshots, huzzah! (I’ll also promise to myself to post more stuff here…). This was also posted on the WDG forums I frequent often, although expanded a bit with some late additions. Some of these games I should post about in more detail sometime.

The Verdict

Some good games; no real priority, certainly no stupid top 10 or rankings or numbers. Nothing stood out as “dammit beyond dying you must play this”. Wow, having revised this list it still has so many sequels…

The Games

Metro 2033 – Not finished the SP yet, for goodness knows what reason, it’s like the last level (expanded note: It was an annoying last level). Still utterly fun though up to that point. Kudos points for not being a sequel of any kind!

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 + Vietnam – I was late to the party, but loads of fun in multiplayer. The SP is passable and helps you to learn the weapons a bit. Vehicles, large maps and always team based gameplay with no silly perks appeals. One issue is the stupid levelling system, go go gimped new players…urg.

Dawn of War 2: Chaos Rising – Excellent expansion pack since I thoroughly enjoy the singleplayer; just so over the top action. Can be quite hard too which is great. Can redistribute your squads points after the first mission (thank goodness), so gets points redistributed to more powerful aspects for that πŸ˜‰

Fallout: New Vegas – Everything Fallout 3 fell down on (factions interacting, banal main plot, out of character factions, some terrible weapon selections and the game being damn easy with insta-stimpacks, and also terrible companions) was improved and bettered. An interesting world with actual fascinating intrigue and a better enemy faction of your choice, and still retained all I liked about Fallout 3 – exploration and so forth. Improved massively with a radio mod for more tracks though.

Mass Effect 2 – Fast paced “epic” shooter-RPG-kinda-thing. The combat/RPG levelling was to me oversimplified and the combat, if not especially difficult, was certainly frustrating in places since it is basically only you killing things and you get limited ammo. Still apart from some blatant plot hiccups (bloody idiot Shadow Man being the most blatant and dumbfounding one) it had some more fascinating characters and places to visit, and I still love the voiceacting and sheer character of the games. Mining minigame can bugger off though, so much wasted time on that stupid thing. Extra points for being a sequential sequel – one where actions in the first game, some rather small, do have some kind of impact on the new game.

BioShock 2 – Dare I say a good sequel – enjoyable levels, nice upgrades this time (fear my drill and named sentry bots!), a more coherent plot throughout and some very inventive work put into some parts of the game and it certainly is much more fun to play. Bonus points for

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat – A great end to the first set of STALKER games (they’re making STALKER 2 now right?), being part of the military gives me the ample canon for a faction I otherwise was fascinated with but never got to talk to, the levels were well tuned and some more demanding decisions being made of me to actively do one thing or another, rather then general side missions (which more fully influenced the much more complete ending too). Was fun to decide what to do; and the AI was great this time (more times you played in a group, was good fun doing so). I don’t think I even needed a weight mod this time, but those are easy to find to stop the curses of inventory management.

Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth – A damn fun game. Not too challenging, but was rewarding and seeing you move around more actively was just more pleasing then static screens and more involvement in evidence use and “logic”. No courtroom drama is a real shame, but it still pulled something similar off, and was much better then the last Ace Attorney game (which suffered from a terrible main cast; this one actually has some good cast members, and I still love Gumshoe πŸ™‚ ).

Assassin’s Creed II – Still playing, but damn it is so much better then the first game. Sadly no skippable cut-scenes still, but they’re not hours long either (still a shame if you exit and have to re-watch them again if you close the game). Extra assassination missions outside of the main plot and more combat moves/enemy types make it very fun; you really feel you have the power to kill anyone this time. Slightly more checkpoints, mission restart/cancel options and less “stop playing the fun part of the game for 10 minutes of walking around a single room” experience then the first helps too (the over the top plot is instead ingested with minigames in the past world).

PokΓ©mon HeartGold – Yes, addictive handheld nostalgic (but still good) play-on-the-bus fun. Best game in the series is still the original Gold and Silver, and this remake captures most of that again (missing is the much better AI that was always on in the original, the room decorating and Espeon from Red πŸ˜‰ also why can’t you flight from one side of the map to the other?). Now I am just waiting for Black and White… πŸ˜‰

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty – Singleplayer == good clean, if very predictable levels (mainly) although utterly unsatisfying plot-wise (with points docked for horrible NPC’s, backstory “we knew each other all along honest” cutscenes, some really really awful actors, and no mention of the UED at all with most of the original game having seemingly not happened). Multiplayer still makes me wince, and I dare not go back there unless I had severe help.

Mount and Blade: Warband – Multiplayer is a damn fun addition to the game actually – the c-rpg mod makes it a wee bit more persistent and less wacky then the normal one (which is still pretty fun but strange how gold is distributed in a kind of Counterstrike way). The revised map and actions in the game are okay too – much better then the original, more balanced, and you can become king/queen now – recommended if you’ve never played the game at all πŸ˜€

Just Dance 2 – As a party game, utterly great silly fun you don’t need to “play certain things to unlock the good stuff”; yes I love silly disco dancing πŸ™‚

Mafia 2 – Still playing this one, about half way in. Some major clichΓ©s and parodies/homages/references don’t stifle the quick-witted dialogue and actually likable main character and close friend, mixing some humour into the drama which moves along through mostly short cutscenes (which are skipable, take that Assassins Creed!). Reasonably fun melee fighting on top of cover-based fighting makes for a patient combat system, but is kept interesting by each mission essentially being setpiece upon setpiece. Exploring the pretty dead city isn’t great except for buying flashy suits since the police, for how little the missions actually involve them so far, do take some effort to get away from in the old cars (they don’t, however, do much unless you are speeding or hit them or a pedestrian, which makes navigating easier). Gets double points for basically including, so far at least, 2 era’s and separate seasons. Sliding around in an icy 1940’s or the summer of the 1950’s. Fedora’s look good in both πŸ˜‰

Got to play more of: Alpha Protocol (why haven’t I played this? just…kinda left the disk and never installed it!), Napoleon: Total War, Civilization 5 (this just does not appeal still for some reason; I think I love civ4 that much more, I did try again recently…) Just Cause 2 (although should be completely insanely over-the-top), Batman Arkham Asylum (I only brought it this year…not even booted it up), Professor Layton and the Unwound Future (still playing…is it all a dream again? or is this going to go mental and be actually real?) and others.

Still not brought Golden Sun: Dark Dawn or Super Scribblenauts yet though. I’ve also played a wee bit too much AI War, League of Legends (still a PITA to install dammit, but good with friends) and Team Fortress 2 from earlier years, heh.

Man, I really should play Alpha Protocol; at least then the list of “original 2010 mainstream games” I’ve played will double from 1 to 2 (admittedly there are more originals I haven’t or wouldn’t or can’t play here). I’ve resigned myself to knowing next year will be little different according to what’s going to be released; I should probably do some kind of list…wait, no, lists with no content are terrible, and there is already one here (spoiler: almost all are sequels).

Red Faction: Guerrilla

Red Faction: Guerrilla. In a sentence; you’re a Space Asshole with a big hammer. I’ve seen it referenced recently as Red Faction: Gorilla which is utterly apt description of the game. I also appear to have a spare copy of the game from owning Metro 2033, hehe πŸ™‚

In any case, please watch this before continuing:


(Thanks to the ever-great Chris Remo for making the song!)

Building destruction makes it hard to take screenshots
Building destruction makes it hard to take screenshots

Boom! Kapow! BOOM!

A few seconds later…

BOOOOOOM! CRASH!

It’s a sandboxy game set on Mars (thus almost a literal sandbox! ho ho!). You’re basically a person thrown into a rebellion where your job is to blow everything up of importance in a world. You’ve got no reason for doing this whatsoever, unless the opening cutscene really persuaded you that fighting in a rebellion against a huge army good idea. The game is pretty bare faced about it: You blow things up and then blow more things up.

Short-lived brothers can't be killed until the second cutscene silly!
Short-lived brothers can't be killed until the second cutscene silly!

It does this pretty well; play it in a lighthearted way and you’ll enjoy some of it, the bits involving explosions at least. Generally though it is pretty subpar. The third person combat is boring, pretty dumb, and pretty overall hopeless to enjoy (add up poor allied and enemy AI, limited ammo and weapons and no real cover system into the mess). Blowing up buildings people are in or dropping buildings on them are much more fun. Getting killed because there are a dozen enemies out of reach of your explosive grenades is not as fun; because hell, if I’m in demolitions, why can’t I blow them up? Who says I need to use a gun?! Being able to blow up the vehicles at least proves to be an effective countermeasure to them coming in massive waves. πŸ™‚

You also get a hammer; one of the more satisfactory melee weapons I’ve used in a game, since you can destroy buildings (slowly) with it; but sadly the enemies all come armed with guns. How is that fair?! πŸ™

What else?

Look, look, equality! A sole female NPC! She upgrades weapons and needs rescuing in a very early mission (no joke).
Look, look, equality! A sole female NPC! She upgrades weapons and needs rescuing in a very early mission (no joke).

I’ve almost run out of things to say about this, which isn’t good. I’ve not finished it; I might sometime, but it’ll take some effort such as deleting all other games from my PC first. I’m being a little tough – but really this is a very basic game, but I got it cheap so can’t complain since the building destructions are just fun to do. Explosions are exciting, especially when you can place them all down yourself πŸ™‚

This is a defiantly anti-AAA title; real lack of breadth since there is one thing to do but it does it really well and is utterly polished to gem like status. Almost a tech demo of blowing buildings up with structural damage; there’s no way you can take seriously your in-game job of blowing up “key structures” for the rebellion, but just revel in the fact you can blow lots of things up in very imaginative ways.

It is a passable excuse to have something to play in between games; but don’t go out expecting anything amazing. Gone are the days of Geo-mod which is something I’d welcome the return of, buildings might be fun but blowing up cliffs, the ground, whatever would be massively fun; imagine having water flooding, or lava, or collapsing terrain, or tunnelling beneath the world…

The in game codex fails to give any useful information on generic enemies.
The in game codex fails to give any useful information on generic enemies.

Gone are linear levels and boss fights. In is the rather empty almost literal sandbox. In are the mindless swarm of stupid allied and enemy NPC’s. In is a plot and set of characters you simply can’t care much about; they pretty much shout at you to get on with the plot, even the protagonist doesn’t seem to care about it, something that I shared with him!

Did I mention you can blow things up a lot in this game? It seems to be worth mentioning again in case you missed it.

To Sum Up

You’re thrown in there to do what you do best no questions asked; blow things up.

You do this for no logical reason except you can.

You go blow everything up.

Right up.

Often into the air.

Often on top of people.

Often allies stupid enough to stand in buildings you need to blow up.

Thus becoming the utter Space Asshole that is totally unavoidable as far as I can see.

Game that forces you to be a Space Asshole, I salute you!

Choice of Games

They do fun browser-based diversions – text-based choice games, which have fun stat-changing decisions and chapters. You can be a roaring Dragon or take part in a Hornblower-esk Navy adventure.

I never really seriously read “Choose your own adventure” books – I did have some but always cheated just to check out how the books worked, which was much more fun. Drawing out maps, getting through the game, was the fun part.

These however are fun and entertaining in their own right – and quite intelligently done. You get several chapters, several vignettes (they explain how to write your own, the blog is great at explaining the choices behind their games (including on genders). Also; nice theme πŸ˜‰ ), which all press you into deciding some major action or other. It’s done so well and gives you a lot of agency – as they explain in their “Why” section.

I’ve not replayed any however; mainly because I’ve been fully satisfied with my own mini-adventure, being a Dragon or a member of the Royal Navy! I expect the choices you do make can be, as in most games, variable between a small change in text and a entirely different branch (and perhaps early end to the story). The interestingly devised stats change outcomes, and it does a great job at making it book-like without taking away your own agency – the actions are widely different a lot of the time.

In any case; these are easier then text-based adventures to navigate, fun to leap into and enjoy, and also are well written. Give them a shot if you’ve got half an hour or so to spare πŸ™‚

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

The Bad Guy(tm)...who I can't shoot since it's a cutscene
The Bad Guy(tm)...who I can't shoot since it's a cutscene

I’ve not played much of the Battlefield series, but it has a grand legacy of small-to-medium-scale tanks and troop battles. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 has a passable basically rail-shooter singleplayer, but gorgeous first-person-shooter squad-based multiplayer.

Still Haven’t Finished the Singleplayer…

The B Team, the guys you really don't want to call...
The B Team, the guys you really don't want to call...

Thankfully it definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously, since the singleplayer game I’ve still not had the sheer will to complete yet. It is both ridiculously easy and patience-testing boring – however becomes hard when you’re thrown into fighting large amounts of enemies since you simply can’t shoot them all. This comes from them being relatively easy to kill (they barely take cover or move), but you too are easy to kill (you can only crouch and a few good shots – or missles – can kill you).

Not having to prone and peek around corners is a bit refreshing but I do miss it from Call of Duty 4 and STALKER. Still, crouching and having simpler controls means it is fast paced until it gets more annoying with enemy troops spawning in huge numbers.

Curse you Inevitable Betrayal!
Curse you Inevitable Betrayal!

In any case, it’s passable if boring. The characters are sterotypical and macho as per usual, and the plot is random and doesn’t make much sense but at least it gives you a good feel for how the game plays.

Okay, actually I finished it…just…

Since I was taking my sweet time getting screenshots I went ahead and finished the singleplayer, which took a matter of an hour or so in any case. Not much to report apart from a few screenshots! I mean, some really silly things; “brilliant” writing and sequel fodder.

What Brilliant Writing
What Brilliant Writing

Ace Rimmer POV
Ace Rimmer POV

End shot from the singleplayer AKA "Sequel Fodder"
End shot from the singleplayer AKA "Sequel Fodder"

Multiplayer! But where is my kit…

Testing my Eyefinity setup with Very Ultra Widescreen
Testing my Eyefinity setup with Very Ultra Widescreen

Leaping into multiplayer is both a great and a sad thing from the outset. I did it only a few levels into the singleplayer and came off none-the-worse since I’m a competent FPS player. This is good since there are no tutorials and also everything apart from your first weapon and a grenade is an unlock!

This meant as a medic I couldn’t heal anyone, as an engineer I couldn’t fix vehicle damage, and as a soldier I couldn’t provide ammo. Luckily a sniper just needs to snipe, so his default kit is the fairest (apart from he gets his ability to place a motion sensitive item as an unlock, but at least that isn’t heavily needed for combat).

I’ve got major issues with this kind of treatment. I am competent enough to learn the maps and have fun while ultimately suffering a massive amount of deaths to mortars, guided missiles, super-explosive grenades, high powered shotguns…just to name a few. It takes a fair few hours to make the basic class unlocks, which is a real shame and I’m putting it down as by far the worst aspect of the multiplayer right now! πŸ™‚

Multiplayer Joy!

Multiplayer shot
Multiplayer shot

The rest is a joy however; it is fast paced, seemingly balanced gameplay with a lot of tactical combat options available. Usefully all the classes weapons can actually kill things, meaning cover and covering fire is useful – I’m so glad the medic doesn’t get a pokey gun! Aiming is a proper skill to get heavy fire on someone since headshots kill faster, and like the singleplayer there is no prone or corner-looking meaning you do get a decent shot back at someone who shoots at you.

You can also join a squad with up to 3 others that allows you to spawn next to them when you die (which when you do not have basic equipment is a godsend). Your squad can be given basic orders (as in what objective to take first), but more importantly you can point out enemies to your entire team by pressing Q. How useful! No more mini-map scouring for red dots, and enemies (especially vehicles) can be pointed out so others can shoot them or know where they are in their view.

Multiplayer in a tank of some kind
Multiplayer in a tank of some kind

The maps are also very fun to play in. You can blow up a great amount of cover and buildings, which is fun and strategic, especially for attacking a well defended position. I enjoy the Rush mode, where an attacking team has a limited time to destroy around 6-8 points (by planting a bomb there or simply throwing all your firepower at it for ages), 2 at a time, making the maps a manageable size. It never seems impossible to defend or attack either, and it swaps the teams over so both sides can play as defence or attack (and you even stick in the same squads when maps change! although sometimes one side can really be much better and dominate of course).

Vehicles are also included in many maps. Most require at least a second gunner to make full use of the equipment (and most have 4 passenger slots for an entire squad), and are highly entertaining to just blow up stuff with. They’re not game unbalancing either, since certain classes have the materials to stealthily or loudly blow them up, and they also can’t kill everything but do help push forwards forces into what are otherwise kill zones, or at least distract those people trying to blow you up for others to get. Helicopters are something I’ve still not learnt how to use though – the lack of a tutorial for these complex beasts is a bit annoying!

Finally, there is no singleplayer deathmatch or other nonsense. The Battlefield series never had this of course, but it is worth pointing out that the game is balanced for multiple people on a team, so you never feel alone or outnumbered and always have friends to fall back on (or get revived by!). I’m also glad there isn’t anything like capture the flag – all the modes require some form of proper tactical offence and taking over areas, not just temporary in-and-out attacks.

Epic Fail - when you suicide!
Epic Fail - when you suicide!

So, if I didn’t have unlocks and things to “earn” I’d be enjoying it a ton more (I can’t ignore it though, I want these “specialisations” – I keep getting killed by people with them!), however the fast paced nature with a realistic slant makes it a joy to actually play. I’ve not heard any voicechat however, which is a shame – I need to play with some friends to really use the squad combat properly and work with my squad correctly.

Steam UI Update – Nice, just Hugggeee

Odd thing, the new UI update for Steam looks okay, as so far it was functional before but has shading and stuff now. It also allows you to filter games so only installed ones are shown, which is great.

It’s just huge.

Hugggeeee.

I have a second monitor and it takes up half of it (it’s 1680×1050!). I am not blind, I can perfectly use the friends list which is much more acceptable in size…

This screenshot below is as small a width as I could make it (height limitations are not as bad, ie; it’ll go down to 500 or so pixels high):

Huuuggeee Steam UI

I really, really prefer a smaller Pidgen/Skype/IM client style, is it too much to ask to have such an option back so it doesn’t waste so much screen space if I have it open on top of or next to things? πŸ™‚ This is also the smallest way to display games – although the grid option is there to display more games you can’t narrow it any further. A simple list, ala the steam friends view, and previous game small view, would be awesome.

Or I’m missing the button to change it (although I’ve tried every button, you can’t even remove the toolbar at the top either, and the options are 90% the same in the settings menu for UI things πŸ™ ).

Sadly, not being a Steam Forums member, for strictly sanity reasons, it appears there is no email to feedback this to! how…silly!

I’m also surprised, since I thought netbook-sized screen resolutions (or just small laptops) wouldn’t even be able to display so much width, and that, you know, we weren’t blind and that the previous small list worked fine.

AI War

Tutorial Fun
Tutorial Fun

After League of Legends I need some better games to post about, so I’ll be posting about them this week! The first up is AI War, which took a good part of my weekend up. The game itself is a large-scale sci-fi co-op RTS game against the CPU. It also has elements of tower defence (against waves of enemies based at choakpoints), tactical battles (some micromanagement and work there) and the classic Turn Based Strategy stuff like long term resource management, technology research, strategic thinking and so forth.

The aim is to defeat the two AI forces (having very well defended bases) who get increasingly angry and competitive as you take over the map.

Long Time Playin’

Zoomed out on a planet map.
Zoomed out on a planet map.

Just from the outset if you don’t like playing long games, don’t play this game. It’s Civ4-long, hours and hours to complete a campaign. I’ve only played the tutorial and that took all weekend! πŸ™‚

For me this is perfect – I’ll probably play by myself but I hope to get some interested people who frequent the WDG forums to play too. I am sure I’d enjoy it by myself but I want to try out co-op possibilities.

The reason is the strategic long-term elements are well thought out. There is actually some reason to not kill every enemy on every planet (each planet being connected by wormhole chokepoints to other planets, each planet is an 2d RTS map). You get waves of enemies only from planets which have gates that spawn them, and you can destroy AI data banks of the enemy to hinder progress – every offensive action is met with the AI pumping up the difficulty, which this hinders slightly. Raids like this are important it appears. Expand too fast and you have tough ships destroying you before you know it. Some planets just are not worth conquering for the natural resources, or are just chokepoints to more important planets. Some have unique things to capture which require the complete annihilation of the AI on the planet to make it safe.

With co-op the fun would come from multiple fronts being fought, co-operative army usage and gifting and so forth. Should be fun to try! (much like a Civ4 game played in real time).

Battles and Combat

Overwhelming Assault
Overwhelming Assault

All the battles are massive amounts of ships. Simply check all the screenshots I’ve uploaded! You have to get hundreds of ships to do simple tasks, and thousands to do anything remotely hard. Each ship does its own targeting which is a godsend – it is pretty much fine for people poor at micromanagement, and mainly the tactical part comes from positioning ships, formations, groups and luring enemies, hitting them with a timely wave of firepower, retreating and raiding.

The unit types are also varied – there are more then a standard trio of rock-paper-scissors, and certainly is a large part of the strategy (especially which to upgrade into better versions). You get ship caps per tier of ship – so you don’t instantly get every ship to level 2 once you research it, meaning you always have a mixed force of different levels since even the lower level ships can act as cannon fodder to save the higher level ones.

Resources and Tech

Conga Line of Production
Conga Line of Production

Resources come in the Total-Annihilation way of constant streams – crystals and metal being the two base items. They work pretty fundamentally like Sins of a Solar Empire if you’ve played that. You also have power being a constant number – either you’re in the black or red there, with X power costing X crystals and metal a second depending on your power plants. This keeps a cap on the amount of ships and expansion you can achieve with a limited amount of planets.

Technology means unlocking new turrets, defences, economic buildings, higher rated ships and so forth. You get 2000 points of knowledge per planet from science ships docked there. This means you can hop into enemy planets, and if well defended (or not provoked too much) you can sap some knowledge quickly and not have to take the planet entirely to get more technology. I’ve not had a chance to use a lot of it, but there are some interesting things I’ve not tried much of (force fields and turret defences, large powerful star ships, additional economic buildings and so forth).

Agressive AI

Battle! (Not much interesting going on)
Battle! (Not much interesting going on)

I can’t honestly comment much on the AI. The tutorial sets it in “No attacks, AI level 1” – which is pathetically easy to lure out on each planet and destroy with smaller forces. However, I see much potential – and the AI ships do know how to handle themselves. Not thinking will get your entire force massacred (as happened to me attacking a building in the final planet which drew every AI unit there to attack me!). There are obviously AI personalities, and difficulty levels, which will likely make it a lot more fun to defend against and purposely raid. They are certainly out to get the players, even the tutorial warns you that you could lose quite easily if you’re not careful!

Since I built the wrong units the last enemy base took a while to kill too:

Final Base 1: The Beginning of the End
Final Base 1: The Beginning of the End

Final Base 2: More Firepower
Final Base 2: More Firepower

Final Base 3: Carry on Hitting...
Final Base 3: Carry on Hitting...

Final Base 4: Still needs more...
Final Base 4: Still needs more...

Final Base 5: Still needs a little more...
Final Base 5: Still needs a little more...

Final Base 6: Finally destroyed! AI good riddance!
Final Base 6: Finally destroyed! AI good riddance!

20 minutes or so! Mainly because I built the wrong units to attack it at the end. Also I really need to sort the alignment of multiple images. I’ll do a slideshow next time.

Fun!?!?

It is 2D, although since you zoom out a lot to get a better perspective, this matters little. There are some issues getting things done fast unless you know your hotkeys (such as building new buildings means finding a single unit who can build), but I can forgive that – it’s not a game that needs rushing all the time, and if you’re so unprepared to have to build in battle you might have already lost. The core gameplay also hasn’t got any alternatives – it is against two AI’s and that’s that. I guess it is balanced entirely around this, but you can choose a wide option from the amount of planets (thus length of the game) and other things.

In the end though it was fun playing the tutorial. Fun to toil destroying those faceless AI dregs! FUN TO RUIN THAT SILLY AI! MUAHAHAHAH! *ahem*. The competition against more then just an equal opponent makes a nice edge. There looks to be a lot of difficulty and personality options with the AI, and co-op will be fun to try out. It was satisfying to destroy the tutorial AI – as you can see above! Worth trying the trial and playing the tutorial, and was Β£13, which is quite good considering the price of some games πŸ™‚