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Killing Floor – The Verdict

Killing Floor – The Verdict

Recommending Killing Floor is ultimately difficult. It feels dated, plays like a mod for Unreal Tournament 2004 (who’d have thought?!) and hasn’t got the polish you’d expect off a modern retail title. I have had quite a lot of fun with it. It can be enjoyable, it really can. But it’s neither particularly deep, nor do I see it having much lasting potential

You and five of your mouthy British mates are dropped in an open location infested with the hordes of the damned, instructed with thinning their numbers. You do this for a little while, and the “trader” – an arbitrary, unexplained and frankly irritating game play facilitator – opens up shop somewhere in the map allowing you to buy more powerful weapons before more of the blighters appear. Plans are hurriedly drawn up, doors are sealed and you have to hold out and defeat the horde once more. Rinse and repeat for a pre-determined number of rounds and you eventually come across the “Patriarch”; the monstrous biomechanical fiend who is responsible for Z-day. Killing him wins you the game. That is more or less what encompasses the whole game.gorefest

The tools you have at your disposal are largely standard fare, including pistols, shotguns, axes or flame-throwers, the latter of which is perhaps mostly useful for setting yourself on fire before jumping out of an office window. Maybe that’s just me? You also get a welder, which allows you to block off most doorways, funnelling the nefarious legions into (theoretically) more manageable areas. You can also select one of 6 perks which upgrade the more you play, allowing you to become gradually more and more powerful or useful in different areas (such as simple weapon usage, to better healing) depending on the perk you choose. The weapons are great fun to use by and large. The ballistics model makes for a genuinely kinetic experience, especially when “Z-time” (bullet time, basically) kicks in: observing the weapon animations and ballistic trajectories like this is a joy to behold.

The zombie hordes have various means at their disposal, from the lowly shuffling Clot, to the lethal Fleshpounds. Each brings a new attack type to the table in order to disrupt your plans, such as the Siren’s wave attack that not only makes your brain explode but also distorts your vision, impairing your ability to fight the horde. Such is the effect of most enemies to be honest. They do damage and prevent you from fighting back adequately if you let them get too close and not a huge amount else. They also more or less simply make a bee-line for your gaggle of survivors rather than really doing much to outwit your squad; it plays a lot like tower defence in first person. You’ve got the option of adding UT style mutators to mix up the gameplay, and you can customise waves, but it all feels rather superfluous, and doesn’t really increase variety in the gameplay so much as it stretches it thin. Stylistically they’re more House of the Dead than 28 Days Later. This might well be a good thing depending on your preferences, but it slightly irks me really.flesh-pound

My biggest problem with Killing Floor though is that it genuinely does feel a few years out of date. The lighting’s pretty nice, but nothing spectacular. The animations seem genuinely behind the times, and there’s no real feedback when hot lead connects with decaying flesh, disappointingly. Not all of this is technology related either – to be fair they’re using the UT 2.5 engine (though you could, I suppose criticise this too.) The locations, with a few exceptions such as the London level are pretty generic affairs, and unless new levels, whether official or fan-made come out soon I can see myself getting very bored of them, very quickly. They really don’t have any sense of progression to them, and moving from one location to another (basically dictated by where the trader miraculously teleports to) only offers slightly different tactical situations – only differing in the number of routes enemies can come from and the number of doors you have to weld. When the hordes finally arrive, there’s not a huge amount of room for tactics besides deciding who covers each angle. It’s just not that involving.

Special mention also has to go to the piss poor interface. It’s truly atrocious across the board. It’s not only technically inept in the case of the server browser (we’ve had endless issues connecting, hopefully they’ll be sorted soon), but in game it helps contributed towards a dated feel – basically it’s very, very ugly; particularly the trail that leads to the trader between rounds ripped straight from UT. On a game mechanics level, revealing the number of Zs remaining was a bad choice in my opinion. It serves only really to damage immersion, and makes rounds very, very predictable. I’d have liked it if there were no ammo counters telling you how many clips you have remaining as well, which would strip some of the interface bloat down and add to the tension.kf

Despite my issues with Killing Floor, both stylistic and games mechanic in nature, it is genuinely quite a lot of fun from time to time. Locking down doors and planning defensive angles, all in a frantic half-minute or less is a brilliant experience when it all comes together. I’ve enjoyed going back to it repeatedly just because it handles quick decision making on defence so well; though this is counteracted by the limited number of maps. Once you’ve played it for a few rounds you basically know all you need to know about winning it. The perk system perhaps also helps increase replayability, allowing you to take on increasing difficulty settings, keeping the challenge fresh even if the mechanics themselves don’t really change much from game to game.

But can I recommend Killing Floor? Depends. If you honestly can’t get enough of zombie-bashing in a world where the genre has become the new Second World War, then Killing Floor offers a fun, albeit dated experience. At £15 it’s not a huge financial risk, though I myself would wait for it to inevitably come down in a sale in the coming months. Maybe consider waiting to see if Tripwire or the community improves on the level of content if you’re really interested. But honestly, I was barely interested in it enough to go and grab some screens for this review before publishing. Which is probably a more damning statement than any other criticism I can make.

Sorry Tripwire, but I’ll be giving this one a Miss.

Friendly Fire! Friendly Fire!
Fun but far too flawed.
Fallout 3 : The Pitt – The Verdict

Fallout 3 : The Pitt – The Verdict

Bethesda very nearly lost me for good with the last attempt at DLC. It really was genuinely atrocious. Thankfully, The Pitt proves a far more worthwhile, interesting and enjoyable experience. Technicalities regarding its use of Games For Windows Live weren’t much of an issue this time around – the experience of getting it running last time wasn’t repeated. But I’m sure there’s a better way of doing it in future once the deal with Microsoft runs out. Steam anyone?

Anyway. The Pitt then. As per Operation: Anchorage, the mini-expansion starts off with a crackly radio transmission from one Snake Pli- “Werhner”, a runaway slave from the hive of scum and villany, The Pitt, touched upon by a Brother of Steel in the main game. He wants you to help find – by find, he means steal – a cure for a mind and body warping disease ravaging the slaves of the Pitt from his former master, a bombastic, self-styled saviour named Ashur who is rebuilding Pittsburgh on the backs of kidnapped slave labour kept in line by bondage-fiend-bandits with a perchance for chains and corpses.

You is Ugly Bugleh!

You’s is ugly bugly!

Right from the outset, you’re given choices; specifically on how to get to the Pitt. I personally didn’t like the idea of cooperating with slavers to get in so decided to fight/sneak in.  Still got beaten to a pulp with my gear nabbed by a rather green man mind (you’ll know what I mean when you meet him.) Things move fast from here; you meet your contact and the plan is set in motion with you being sent into the darkest corners of the Pitt occupied by “Trogs” – humans mutated to the point of madness. They’re a bit rubbish actually. Things are improved by the fact you’re given the excellent new Auto-Axe weapon. Perfect for cutting the blighters down. From here you gradually move closer to the target, finding out more about the brutal world of The Pitt on the way. I wont say much more on the plot however since I don’t want to spoil details; but it’s actually quite good. One thing I felt was a problem with Fallout 3 a few months on after playing it was the comparative lack of new factions; you ended up basically seeing the main protagonists such as the Brotherhood of Steel, the Enclave etc. from the previous games. There wasn’t much sense of any other political factions within DC up to much. The Pitt improves on that greatly. The plot essentially revolves around the reconstruction of Pittsburgh, and thematically it brings up some interesting quandries for you to decide on.  The “moral decision” isn’t a straight foward one of the oppressed against the oppressors, and is probably one of the most engaging plot lines in Fallout 3 so far.

wickerman

The new content is generally quite good. As I said in the previous review for Operation: Anchorage, the new toys Bethesda are adding are genuinely quite fun. There’s a few new sets of raider armour for those who like that sort of thing, and an excellent new silenced assault rifle with a scope – should go nicely with the Chinese Stealth Suit I guess. The environments are brilliant too. While there’s no significant departure from the brown and grey of Fallout 3, the design of The Pitt has a sense of depth and individuality to it. It’s not just a generic tumbling ruin, and its design reflects the social structure brought to the fore in the plot. Things are a bit combat orientated, but not to the same degree as was the case in Operation : Anchorage. There’s more scope for alternative character variations to flex their talents in most parts of the Pitt. It’s also a bit short. I couldn’t help but feel that despite the plot being quite good, it came to a close just as it was teetering into the brilliant. It’s probably a good sign that I actually did want to play on afterwards though, compared to Operation : Anchorage where I wanted to finish the damn thing just to have my game save access the main game again instead of being stuck in the sim.

All in all, The Pitt is a welcome step up from the dire Operation: Anchorage. The content is good, technically functional (unless you have it on the 360, apparently) and I certainly liked the plot. But it is a bit short. At a rough £6.50 price mark, it’s not too bad. Considering it’s £1 a pint night at my local, I got 4 hours straight fun for 6.5 pints, and I can actually see myself going back to play it again. With that in mind, it’s not a bad buy.  Give it a try.

It'll do.
Solid Hit
Fallout 3 – Operation:Anchorage Review

Fallout 3 – Operation:Anchorage Review

ao-thumb

As promised, here’s my review of the new Fallout 3 DLC – Operation: Anchorage. Since getting hold of it is a less than simple process, I’ve also written extensively on how to buy it/get it running here.

Anyway. As you who were here at The Reticule’s founding will know, I really liked Fallout 3. As those of you who read my post the other day, I really hate GFWL. The latter is truer than ever. And in all honesty, Operation : Anchorage fails on almost all accounts to live up to what made Fallout 3 such a good game, even despite faults.

As everyone knows, a Fallout game is made up of a few crucial aspects. First, and foremost in my mind is the setting. Everyone knows that setting by now – it’s a bleak, stereotypically stylised picture of a world fallen, with hints of retro-futurism lost, juxtaposed with dark, satirical humour. The second crucial design point is the comparitive freedom by which you can approach the game’s various quests and situations. The 3rd is character design. For the most part, O:A either captures distant glimmers of them on the horizon, or fails utterly to include them.

soldier

The addon starts well actually. You pick up a distress signal from my favourite faction in the game, the Brotherhood of Steel Outcasts. After fighting off some supermutants with them in the ruins of DC, you come across a building site housing a bunker that has technology the Outcasts want to get at. The voice acting is of the average to good kind, and they’ve clearly made an effort here, with new textures and assets from the get-go. As soon as you jump in the virtual reality pod, you’ll either crash due to a corrupt save game (I can’t help but feel there’s a line of code in there by one beleagured developer screaming at you not to bother trying), or find yourself shivering on a cliff side with a flat, dull American soldier as your companion. You then proceed to move through a complex of cliffs, caves and commies. It’s by and large one of the least interesting levels in any modern FPS.

Escape this dull world of horrendous blue and grey, you’ll find yourself in… another horrendous world of blue and grey. Where Fallout 3 is pretty well stylised in this respect – it looks like a stereotypical barren wasteland – O:A is simply just horrific. The “squad choices” amount to little more than talking to that dull US soldier friend from the start of the simulation to choose what weapons they have. If you want squad control, go download the Enclave Commander mod. Hell, Bethesda even advertised it themselves weeks ago, clearly in anticipation of their failure. You then proceed to have the wonderful world of choice dangled in front of your eyes, only to realise you’re basically choosing little more than the order in which you follow a small number of linear paths. There’s a few nice touches along the way. It’s nice seeing the T-51b’s given their proper place once more especially. But nothing truly justifies either the financial cost. It’s not particularly long either – there’s a lot of people understandably annoyed at how short it is on the Bethesda forums. The rest are obviously having fun getting the darn thing running.

general

It’s not entirely without redemption. I love the new weapons and equipment. Especially the Gauss Rifle’s return. It’s easily my new favourite weapon. The Hei-Gei armour is similarily excellent, and I can’t wait to try it out a bit more in the main game. There’s the occasionally brief satire – though never more than a few lines from the characters. It has no sense of bombastic jingoism that’s so present in billboards and the like in the main game. It’s a missed opportunity by all accounts.

I think ultimately, the new gear and art assets will prove useful in the modding scene. In this respect, I’ll be quite glad I’ve got it. It’ll be nice to use some of the new stuff in the main game some more as well. But there’s not nearly enough, and the new levels are simply bereft of all that makes Fallout, Fallout. They tried to make an action RPG into pseudo-Call of Duty. By all accounts they have failed. It is simply not worth the £8.50 they charge, nor the extensive trouble you have to go through in order to play it.

gauss

As for future DLC, I’m sure I’ll still be getting it. I genuinely think the problem here was the decision to make a brief foray into the land of scripted shooters. Bethesda have shown this is an area they are not strong in. The Pitt and Broken Steel already look like they’re planning to return to Fallout 3‘s open world strong points. But Operation: Anchorage? Just don’t buy it folks. It’s simply not worth it.

Friendly Fire! Friendly Fire!
Friendly Fire! Friendly Fire!

If, you still think you want to get it, I urge you to read my second article of the day on this DLC which will cover the distribution and other issues that plague this release that will no doubt hinder the buying process.

Fallout 3 Operation : Anchorage – So you still want to buy it?

Fallout 3 Operation : Anchorage – So you still want to buy it?

operation-anguish

My review of Operation : Anchorage is not a positive one. Read it here. If you still think you want to buy it, I’ve put together a guide on how to do so – because this in itself is not simple, and a few things that may come in useful if you do.

—Buying The Darn Thing—

You need some Microsoft points first off – as in, the same points (no, not Gamerscore as I’ve seen some people asking in various forums) you use to buy stuff on the X-Box marketplace. Buying these online is restricted to users of Visa, Mastercard or AmEx, which is of course quite restricting to those of us who actually know how to look after our money. You can buy points cards from various retailers. I personally ordered mine off Amazon. They haven’t arrived yet, and won’t for a few days, so I sought out another method.

The website http://www.gamesbite.com/ looks dodgy, but they have good E-bay ratings where they also deal, and having done a bit of googling they seemed legit. Buying off Pay-Pal, you’re not giving anyone any details, so I’ve given them a try, mostly because I want to make sure I get the information about this thing out to you guys. They do cost a bit more – overall, 800 points have cost me £10.30, plus the £17 I’ve spent for 2100 on Amazon (at least I’ll have them for future purchases).

Once you’ve got a code, either from somewhere like Gamesbite, or from a retail card, you load up Games For Windows Live, and select “Redeem Code”. Whack your numbers and letters in, and you’ll add your points to your account.

Then go to Marketplace, Select the DLC, and click buy to begin the transaction. Once that is done it will begin downloading.

—Other Issues—

If any of you read Rock Paper Shotgun, you’ll notice a post by John Walker describing just how bloody difficult getting this thing running is.  In summary, it’s an absolute nightmare. In my experience, if you add up the time it took me to get GFWL running, that’s at least 8 hours I would say – though I was trying to get it running for the Dawn of War II Beta as well. Add onto that the expense of buying Microsoft points, I’ve spent £10.30, as opposed to the £8.50 it actually costs – OK, so maybe that’s partly down to my poor planning of when I bought the points, but the point stands, that if Microsoft had more payment options, as available in Steam, I wouldn’t have had that inconvienience.

Once I actually got it running, I got to the VR Room where the content really gets going, only for it to crash. Turns out my save, having started from Vault 101 and gone straight to the content area, was somehow corrupt. I will add at this point, that the Bethesda staff seemed keen to get on top of it, and within a few minutes of my post going up, they did contact me asking if I could send them my corrupt save. So at least they appear to be looking into problems with a commendable degree of promptness.

You will have to copy any non-GFWL saves into the GFWL save folder if you want to play on them. Simply copy your saves in “My Documents\My Games\Fallout 3\Saves” into the corresponding GFWL profile folder in that same path. Easy, but it shouldn’t be an issue all the same.

So what’s my point? Getting this thing going is a farce. The distribution method is atrocious, and the content itself is buggy. You could potentially spend twice the amount of time getting it running as you do playing it if you suffer the same misfortunes as myself and some others.

—Playing the DLC Minus GFWL—

One useful little nugget of information for you all is the location of the actual game files. Following this procedure will allow you to play without GFWL running. Bliss:

Go to C:\Documents and Settings\Owner\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Xlive\DLC

From here, copy the .bsm files into C:\Program Files\Bethesda Softworks\Fallout 3\Data

And there you have it! You’ll be able to do everything normally as per the good old ways. Still, this is how it should be by default. Not this GFWL malarky.

Addtional Buying Method

As Krakn3DFX has pointed out in the comments, you can buy points off Zune at 400 points each. Buy two of these, and you have your 800 for Operation : Anchorage.

Fallout 3 1.1 / DLC Release Date Information

Fallout 3 1.1 / DLC Release Date Information

fo3gfw

Bethesda have released a few bits of information and and a patch for all you intrepid wastelanders out there. First off, there’s the patch here (and patch notes here). They’ve also put up an entry on their blog giving us a release date of January 27th for the first batch of DLC (Operation Anchorage).

Rather more subersively, the patch installs Games for Windows Live, regardless of your intention, or lack of, to buy the DLC. While the DLC looks nice, I can totally understand people don’t want to have to install something that’s basically designed to aggressively market their products via installing yet more software onto your PC, especially in a patch. Stay tuned for more info on the DLC, which we’ll be reviewing the second it comes out.

Also, note that the direct Bethesda link has been giving me some trouble – their mirrors seem fine though.

Edit: For our heathen console based brethren, the patch is out for that as well, and should notify you as per the usual way that your majik boxes do these things.

Postcards of a Wasteland

Postcards of a Wasteland

The Stand much?

It may just be a reworking of the engine that powered Oblivion, but Fallout 3 is a startlingly beautiful game. Maybe it’s the whole ‘destroyed beauty’ bollocks Cliffy B (Dude Huge *sigh*) was going on about when Gears of War still looked promising, but there’s something about looking at the wasteland and feeling yourself a little moved.

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Traveller’s Cheques – Holidaying in Fallout 3

Traveller’s Cheques – Holidaying in Fallout 3

This post may contain minor spoilers

 

 

I have always been incredibly boring when it comes to holidays. I don’t do photos. In fact, given the chance, I will avoid being in the general proximity of a camera just in case it catches my image. Most of the time, however, I can’t avoid them, so I have to make do with whining every time a photograph is taken.

I tell you this because, despite my inbuilt hatred of photography, I am an artist and, as such, I do have an appreciation for natural beauty in the environment. Recently, this has extended to natural beauty in the post-apocalyptic environment of Fallout 3.

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Fallout 3 – The Stalin’s Ghost Review.

Fallout 3 – The Stalin’s Ghost Review.

The real appeal of post-apocalyptic literature, film and games is not altogether easy to explain. To see the world in ruins, to see society smashed and turned to ash and dust; the desperate remnants of humanity clinging on to the remains of the day is peculiarly alluring. What is it exactly? The complete absence of law and order; in gaming allowing the player a sense of complete freedom maybe? Is it the haunting reflection of paradise fallen? Maybe it’s just the potential wanton violence. We do like violence after all. Fallout 3 approaches all three aspects, and succeeds magnificently for the most part.

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