Saturday, 22 February 2014

Do FPS Games Need to Go Back To Their Roots?

I spent most of my Friday night hungover, not from the effects of alcohol, but trying to find a game that could cure the itch the Titanfall Beta has given me. With three weeks left until launch I knew I didn't want to play the bug ridden (still) battlefield 4, with its poor netcode and over emphasis on vehicles. 

A few games of League of Legends later and I knew my rage meter was full. It was getting late and nothing in my 165 games on steam (yes I have a problem) was reaching out to me. Then someone mentioned Warsow, in their own words "Warsow is an indie game developed by group of hobbyists." When you arrive on the homepage its easy to draw comparison with Quake 3 Arena, an FPS that many will argue is the genre in its perfect form. There are a few differences, graphics are cartoony and they have attempted to add a Parkour style movement system that doesnt really fit or work in a consistent way. There is an inbuilt server browser than is particularly poor and there is no friends list facility as such. This is an old school FPS in every sense.

From the moment you enter the server and click join you are straight in the action, looking for a weapon that can can cause your opponent to burst into a bunch of Tetris style pixels. You run at blistering pace, and when you press shift, that's when things really get insane...wait no, shift makes you walk because why would you not want to be running everywhere? Game modes consist of hurting the enemy players with whatever you can get your hands on, hurting them whilst trying to capture a flag or hurting them as a team. Rockets, Plasma, Rails, Shells, Melee its all here. There is no lengthy spawn timer when you die, because watching a timer count down isn't as fun as shooting someone in the face with a plasma ball. There isn't any vehicles because that takes away from the skill. There isn't any unlocks because you don't need to be drip fed pointless rewards to want to keep on playing, the game itself makes you want to play.

The best part of the game, JUMP PADS!! How I have longed for you in my dreams. Walk over that glowing pad and you are soaring through the air like an eagle gliding on a gentle breeze waiting to rain death on your unsuspecting victim, until you are beautifully cut in half by someone elses rail gun, and the your innards fall to ground in exquisite pixel form.

Warsow is a fast paced old school arena shooter that is completely free and a great deal of fun. Download and play now on

Thursday, 20 February 2014

What's in a name?

Loading a multi player game for the first time will usually require you to choose a handle, nickname, username, gamer tag, a unique way to identify yourself to the other people playing your game. As someone who has consistently used the same username for every game and forum I have ever registered for, and wear it like a badge of honour it confuses me to see user "123456789" has joined the game.

In today's world of instant fame and accolades is it important to carefully craft a username that reflects your personality, what you want to achieve but most importantly that can be easily recognised and reproduced? Nobody is going to want to cheer "upsidedowntoilerbrush" to victory nor are the likely to subscribe to "cabbagesniffers" YouTube channel, lets be honest, these usernames aren't even clever. 

Due to the vast amount of things that we register for I think the username has become a throwaway item, people put little to no thought into it. Users will just add random numbers on the end of things just to try and get registered as quickly as possible, I am looking at you "brad177784." Worse still some people decide to use their username as an opportunity to be derogatory, sexist, racist, homophobic or just generally offensive. In a world of online bullying and harassment should users be forced to use their real names or at the very least be forced to have there real names accessible to everyone to prevent hiding behind the keyboard.

 For me personally being immersed in a game is a key factor, playing a game like Lord of The Rings Online and seeing a dwarf ride past on his horse called Luke Skywalker takes that immersion away.I am keen to see more developers take a hard stance on usernames in games where immersion and lore are key factors in a games enjoyment. ArenaNet makers of Guildwars 2 took it upon themselves to ban or change those user's who had offensive or inappropriate names, should more developers be following in their footsteps or are efforts better spent in other areas? As a statistic Arenanet said that the bans affected .001% of their user base.

Maybe I am getting grumpy as I get older, but as online interactions become such a common occurrence for people of all age groups , backgrounds and interests I think the next time you register for something have a good think about how you want to be know and perceived online, and display your username with pride.

Where Titan Fall's Down

Titanfall is an upcoming FPS from Respawn Entertainment, the makers of Call of Duty due for release on March 14th in Europe. There has been a great deal of excitement and hype around the release and after playing the recent beta I am here to give my thoughts.


The basic setup is two teams of six face off in various game modes, most of which we have seen in one iteration or another. Attrition is a team deathmatch mode that gives players points for kills, Hardpoint is a capture and hold and Last Titan Standing is as the name suggests a last man standing game mode but in Titans.


From the moment the somewhat lengthy tutorial loads you know that a lot of time and effort has gone into making the game feel as smooth as possible. Wall running and the Parkour elements are easily executed, and you never find your Pilot doing things he shouldn’t. After shooting a few stationery enemies you get to play around in your very own titan, which look like big hulking Mechs but in reality are just larger projections of the Pilot. The titans are high mobile, heavily armed nimble machines and other than jumping they can move round the maps with ease.  


So lets get the negativity out of the way, yes there are bots in the game and yes there is a pistol that automatically locks onto enemies. Once you accept that they are part of the game and aren’t going anywhere they really aren’t that big of a deal. The two levels that were included in the beta were Angel City and Fracture, two very different maps. Angel City is tight narrow corridors, small passages and tall buildings where as Fracture is an open landscape with a few carefully place buildings to give the Pilot chance to escape the Titans.


A great deal has been made of the Parkour movement system and even I was surprised at just how fluid the actions are, bouncing from one wall to another to gain that bit extra speed or to reach that ledge high up above is all handled superbly. The clever inclusion of a double jump system facilitated by a jet pack has allowed Respawn to add verticality to the levels that games such as Call of Duty could never dream about. The movement system is so good that often performing that killer Parkour manoeuvre to get will feel better than the kills you have amassed by the end of the round.


This leads me on to the actual shooting mechanics, people who have played COD will feel more at home here than those who cut their teeth on the battlefield series. In fact previous battlefield players may find it difficult to adjust to the pace of the game initially. The guns feel satisfying enough but unfortunately the Pilots can’t take enough damage for true fights to take place, it’s a case of whoever ever see’s first usually wins. Enter the Titan, all players get the chance to call a Titan down as it’s on a time limit. This time limit can be reduced by performing certain actions in game, such as killing bots or Pilots, or just doing damage to them. The titan has a shield as well as a health bar and this allows some really interesting fights with Titans and indeed other Pilots who are well equipped to take down a titan on foot. Titan fights are interesting and can be a game of cat and mouse, being outnumbered doesn’t mean an instant loss, it just means you have to be a little bit smarter.


The rounds last anywhere from 10-20 minutes and this feels about right, although when you are doing really well you will want a few extra minutes. Games are setup using a lobby system similar to those found on consoles, and as of yet there is no option to customise the games or indeed hire a dedicated server. There is expected to be around 13 maps on launch and there will be the inevitable DLC at some point. There are 3 titans in the game and no plans to add anymore at the moment, although titans can be customised as can your Pilot.


Is this the revolutionary game changer for the FPS genre? After 10 hours with the beta I would have to say no. What they have got is a solid FPS game with really fun mechanics that all work together flawlessly. Which for a beta, is impressive. I am looking forward to the release and I will be sinking many hours into the game over the coming months. Check out the short gameplay video below, 10 minutes on Fracture in Hard Point mode.