First Impressions: Arma 3

arma3

After about 4 hours of waiting for Arma 3: Alpha to install, I finally have the game up and running and ready to be played. My friend Stuart suggested we played a multiplayer match, since that’s the only thing we actually bother to play on Arma 2 anyway, so I agreed and instantly found that the Wasteland mod was running on some servers already.

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First impressions: Mass Effect 3 multiplayer demo

Now that the multiplayer side of Mass Effect 3 is unlocked for everyone, there’s no better time to post up my first impressions of the wave-based multiplayer.

The game mode is similar to Horde on Gears of War, in that you complete waves by killing the enemies on the map. Except there are also objectives to complete during Wave 3, 6 and 10, before you finally extract on wave 11. These objectives help break up the hectic gun battles with hacking terminals and gathering intel from around the map.

Altogether there are two maps: Firebase Ghost and Firebase White, both of which are very similar, however I prefer Firebase White for it’s size and map design.

One the changes I recommend would be labelling the current wave number, so you don’t have to pause the game to find out. But that’s easily do-able and in terms of gameplay, it has everything a Mass Effect 3 fan can imagine and maybe more.

All the classes are available to play as and you can unlock new races using the store to buy recruit and veteran packs. In a way it leaves you craving more packs, much like FIFA’s Ultimate Team. Based on EA’s marketing model, we’ll probably see some way of buying packs using Microsoft Points or what I should say is money because that’s what is being implemented soon to Xbox Live.

The packs don’t just provide you with new characters either, as they’ll also give out new weapons and upgrade your current weapons if you already own them. There are also bonuses, which can be used across one or more missions, depending upon the description. Overall, I think this is a great way to keep people playing, as unlocks are the key to any game’s longevity, especially when it’s multiplayer.

One query I do have is with the missile launcher you can gain ammo for from the store packs. They seem heavily overpowered, especially when you’re playing 4-player co-op and everyone has one missile each. The thing is, missiles can obliterate the Atlas mech in one hit, whereas I feel as though two shots would make it slightly more challenging. However, this is only on the bronze setting, so upping your difficulty may create more of a challenge.

Seriously, you try putting the difficulty up and you’re probably going to die. This game gets a lot harder on silver and gold, so I would highly recommend forming a team of friends and upgrade your character as much as possible. Make sure you have a range of characters too, as they all have their advantages.

The game mode packs quite a punch and seeing this is the first time Bioware has chosen to do anything multiplayer wise, they’ve done an pretty good job. Based on what I’ve witnessed and experienced so far, Mass Effect 3 is going to have a multiplayer mode, which no fan of the series is going to forget for a long time. Great work guys!

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First impressions: Mass Effect 3 demo

After managing to snag myself a demo code on the Mass Effect 3 Facebook app, I downloaded and booted up the contender for Game of the Year. The demo itself features two snippets from the games, ranging from dialogue choices to full-on combat.

On launching the demo level, you’ll be prompted with a character editor, which allows you to create your own protagonist, including a female Shepard, which a lot of people requested for ME3. You’ll also be allowed to select a variety of back story info, which will play more of a role in the full game, during certain sections of the story. For example, if you select the “war hero” option, you’re more than likely be trying to save as many survivors as possible. Although that’s not to say you won’t leave men and women behind.

The demo opens dramatically in typical Mass Effect style, with the return of the invading reapers reaching Earth. The first scene offers players the chance to stop and realise that they’re playing Mass Effect 3. Without revealing too much, you get to go hands on with two weapons and you can test out a few of your moves such as the new melee attack, which activates when you hold down B and release.

The cut-scenes during this level are remarkable and certainly show a lot of potential for a compelling storyline. Let’s just say that the cinematic footage on show is good enough to make a Mass Effect movie. If you’re not one for long cut-scenes you can always change your playing style, which is new to the series.

The menu interface can be accessed using the start button, which resembles Mass Effect 2’s hub. However one minor improvement made are the skill trees, which are easier to understand and access. The icons are large and the amount of points you require to level up each skill is clearly on view. The progression of powers are also felt whilst playing, which gives you a great rewarding experience.

The second level offers a bit more gun play for fans of the series. It also gives you a chance to try issuing commands to your two team members. Once again dialogue looks as though it play a role as useful tool for bypassing sticky situations. It’s obvious that Bioware knows this means a lot to players of their franchise. Not only does it offer more gun battles, but also more twists in the story, which is quite surprising for a demo, so we can expect plenty more of that.

Character models also seem to be reworked, with a few cameo appearances from previously-featured characters. The script for dialogue remains well-written and there’s a few comical moments featured, especially during the start of the second section.

Whilst touching upon graphics, Bioware’s setting of Earth is certainly ambitious and from what I witnessed in the demo, the textures appear superb and the buildings and surrounding scenery look amazing. I can’t wait to see other parts of the full game based upon what I’ve seen so far.

The music used also reflects upon the mood during each scene, which will create an emotional storyline when combined with the full game’s storyline. Even the main menu features an epic soundtrack, which to some effect is informing us about the action-packed storyline to come.

For a demo I was actually surprised by the length of it. It also showcases some of the improvements made to the series, including a more agile movement system, which feels a lot more like Gears of War, except it includes a sticky cover system. That’s really the only issue I had with the Mass Effect 3 demo, other than the fact that you can’t holster your weapons, but now I’m just being petty.

Considering I gave Skyrim 98% in a review for Xboxer360, Mass Effect 3 could very well achieve 100%, which would be a personal first for my review score records. I’m also looking forward to multiplayer becoming unlocked next week.

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First impressions: Battlefield 3 beta

I’ve mentioned this many times before, but Battlefield 3 was certainly one of the games I was really looking forward to getting my hands on this year. Now that I’ve had the chance to play the multiplayer beta, I’ll leave you with a few of my thoughts.

Map wise, there’s just the one map to play called Operation Metro, which is set in a variety of locations including the underground subway station and then outside into the streets and open park area. The range of environments on one map is what makes Battlefield unique from other online shooter. We never see Call of Duty attempt this, simply because of the limit on map size that remains throughout the series. The map lends itself to cover too, alongside the new vaulting mechanic, which allows you to jump over barricades in a similar fashion to Brink’s SMART movement system. Although, it doesn’t work exactly the same, since you can only vault over low walls and not a wall that has a large drop over the side.

On the downside, the new prone system makes the game more susceptible to the “Call of Duty player”, allowing the drop shot to be carried out more frequently. Most people will tell you that it’s easier to pull off a drop shot on BF3 than it is on any Call of Duty title, mainly due to the instant dropping to the floor.

Moving onto the weapon base, which provides a wealth of weapons for any Battlefield fan. Players will notice several new weapons in the beta, many seen in Call of Duty: Black Ops, which can also be customised with attachments, but not camouflage. My favourite weapon has to be the M16A3 or the M4, depending upon what I feel like using. If I want a laid back game I would use the M4, but if I wanted to play more tactical I would choose the M16 for it’s long range accuracy and burst fire. The fire rate of most weapons can also be changed, so if you want a single shot rifle just press down the on the d-pad.

Personally I wasn’t all that impressed by the graphics on the game, with the frame rate issues causing glitches on your screen such as green flashes or a random black area creeping onto the screen. This is only a beta though and the full game just iron this out and deliver something very similar to Battlefield Bad Company 2. What’s also noticeable is the lack of destructible environments. You may remember blowing up pretty much every building or wall on the previous title, but Operation Metro failed to provide anything of such, which is surprising when DICE consider this one of the main features of the game, so perhaps this map wasn’t the best to use to sell the game to players.

The game also seems more open to spawn camping, with teams spawning in the same location and the switching of spawn areas never occur, resulting in a chain of deaths on your behalf. Whether that’s just to do with the players style of play in the games I played or perhaps that is just an issue DICE has failed to address. The simple solution to this would be to create alternative spawns in one area, rather than just using the same spot on the map and providing a wealth of kills for spawn camping critters.

So that’s just a few of my thoughts on the Battlefield 3 beta. Overall I would say I’ve been left feeling a little disappointed with the game and if anything similar launches with the full game, I really can’t see DICE competing with Modern Warfare 3. If you disagree with anything I had to say or have something to add, just leave a comment below or post it to my Twitter.

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Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes of Neverwinter preview

Facebook games have become the new marmite of online gaming. You either love them or hate them and if you’re expecting something different with Heroes of Neverwinter, then look no further. This isn’t any Farmville or The Sims Social, this is back to basics D&D.

The character creation launches as you start the game and you can pick from one of four races (Dragonborn, Human, Eladrin and Halfling) and then combine that with one of four classes (Rogue, Fighter, Cleric and Wizard). Customising your character to your own personal liking is still something that concerns me, but what you get is certainly better than other similar Facebook titles.

The battlefield is made of tiles.

This dungeon-tiled features everything you require for a fantasy turn-based game. It wouldn’t seem right without comparing it to Dragon Age: Legends, but you’d be a fool if you even tried. What Neverwinter skips out is the time-based energy bar, so you can play as much as you want without a message popping up telling you to buy more energy points with real money. There’s no restriction in where you want to go and how much you want to play, other than the actual tiles used for the floor to show you where the battle will take place.

Each room becomes a small or large dungeon depending on the number of enemies you have to fight. Since it’s turn-based you’ve got to rely on your team mates, whom you can hire from the local tavern. You could try and play the tank role and kill everything with your character, but the different character classes make it a whole lot easier for you to defeat a large group of foes.

The combat timeline at the bottom of the screen certainly has a use itself, which you may remember seeing in Dragon Age: Legends too, which basically lets you know the order of turns for each character. If you plan accordingly, you can target the approaching attackers first, so that you get another chance to attack again.

My amazing character.

Any D&D title wouldn’t be complete without the wealth of loot on offer to heroes and that’s what this title delivers plenty of. Although I’m not a fan of the scratchcard style of collecting loot, it’s still very rewarding for your efforts. You can even use bonuses to show tiles, so that you can have a sneaky peek at the loot available to collect.

Levelling is similar to most other games, where XP is the source for new ranks. If you reach level 10 there’s a nice little treat waiting for you too, as you can create your very own dungeons for your friends to try out at a fee of course. Shamefully I never reached this level, so I didn’t get the chance to try out the dungeon editor, but from what I’ve seen online, you can really make some great creations.

One thing you can do with Heroes of Neverwinter is borrow a friend’s character, they can sit as a spectator on your adventure. While doing so, they’ll be able to provide minor buffs to your party, and recharge their own Energy at a much faster rate. So there is a slight change in the form of “energy”, which appears to be the currency of every Facebook game. Since this is available on a social network site too – this means you’ll require friends playing on the game, in order to get the most out of the experience. Unfortunately I lacked that in the closed beta, but hopefully as it becomes available to everyone, I’ll pick up a few companions along the way.

It seems to me that Atari has chosen the correct platform to play host for D&D: Heroes of Neverwinter. I can really see the game taking off as a social title for many D&D fans to play. Not only does it go back to basics, but it also remains the same title that D&D 4 was, which makes it appealing to a gamer.

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