Tag Archives: Bethesda

Wolfenstein: The New Colossus (Switch): Panic Button has the Reich touch

Think about this for a minute: I can now play a current-generation first person shooter while sitting on the toilet. Not that I did for this review but, you know, if I can if I want to.

Or in bed while my wife reads on her iPad. Or during my lunch break at work. What a world we live in, eh?

I have to say I’m impressed with what Panic Button have done with Wolfenstein on the Switch.

Sure, if you want the most graphical superior version of the game then the Switch version isn’t for you and if you’re the type of gamer that will balk at lower resolutions then, again, the Switch version isn’t for you.It’s for gamers like me who haven’t played the game on another platform and it’s for gamers who want to play Bethesda’s latest Nazi-killing simulator on the go, filling the well-worn combat boots of BJ Blazkowicz in a story of what the world would be like if Nazi’s had won WW2 and invaded the US of A.

Wolfenstein 2 is the second Bethesda shooter from Panic Button that has appeared on the Switch and right off the bat, the port seems a much smoother experience right off the bat than the port of Doom, which took a few patches to sort its frame rates out.

Make  no mistake, this version is the real deal in terms of content: It’s the same game that appeared on the PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 last year but, as is to be expected for a portable machine that has a fraction of the processing power of its rivals, Panic Button has made compromises to get the game working on the Switch.

As you’d expect, textures are much lower in resolution (mostly noticeable on faces and clothing), it uses a dynamic resolution to adjust the pixel count on the fly and the game is locked at 30 frames a second.To my old man eyes, I thought the game ran smoothly in both docked and portable mode (looking slightly better in portable mode given the smaller screen) and I had a blast.

One thing I did notice  due to the lower resolution and blurrier textures, was every now and then textures would pop in a few moments later, and at times,  picking out enemies and power ups in some locations was much, much harder than it should have been, especially when in portable mode.

Can you see the subtitles? No, I can’t either.

I found the text size of subtitles was too small for my old man eyes. Even with my reading glasses on, I struggled to read them. Dear Panic Button, perhaps an upcoming patch might address that issue?

The latest adventures of BJ Blazkowicz is a battery hog, though.  I started the game with 79% battery & by the time I’d completed the first mission and a few minutes of the second mission, my Switch’s battery was down to 42% – and the wee thing’s internal fan was working overdrive.  Wolfenstein is working the Nintendo Switch to within an inch of its life but, frankly, I can see why.

Look, Wolfenstein: The New Colossus is going to have its detractors but I tip my hat to Panic Button: The developer has knocked it out of the park with this portable version and I’m glad I waited until now to play it, to be honest.

It’s just an added bonus that I can also now play Wolfenstein The New Colossus on the toilet, if I’m that way inclined, of course. I’ll keep you posted.

Thanks to Bethesda in Australia for the review copy of the game.

 

 

 

Doom Switch review: Rip & tear on the go

Doom.

It was the game of a generation.

It was also one of the first first-person shooters I played on my dad’s 486 PC when I was a teenager (a long, long, long, long time ago). That was the days when DOS was a thing and games came on floppy discs (young people: Ask an adult what they were).  Doom was a game that kicked off FPS gaming for a whole generation.

Fast forward lots of years and Doom has seen several iterations, on several platforms, each one founded on iD’s tech. Last year’s, Doom was a smash hit – and now it’s on an unlikely platform: Nintendo’s Switch. It works:  Yes, there are some compromises but, frankly, when it’s played in portable mode, it looks bloody good to me.

Of course, to get Doom running on the Switch, developer Panic Button has made serious compromises: Graphically, things are a lot blurrier and lower resolution than on its console and PC counterpart, and at times, the frame rate drops are noticeable (the game tries to reach 30 frames per second all the time, and seems to mostly achieve that, according to tech reviewers who know more about that thing than I do) but this is the full 2016 Doom experience. On the Switch. Something that is essentially a tablet when compared to the other platforms.

Sure, graphics downgrade further when in docked mode – and I can’t imagine anyone wanting to play the game in docked mode on a 55-inch TV – but Doom is a much better experience when played in portable mode. This is a version that is for the bus ride home, the long drive to that holiday destination or the plane flight. The Switch’s 6-inch screen means that the graphical compromises aren’t as noticeable and the game works because Doom is the type of game that is meant to played fast-paced, with the player moving swiftly from location to location. It’s not designed for camping and hiding behind cover while enemies search for you.

Doom on the Switch can’t compete with the version on Xbox, PlayStation and PC. It just can’t and I don’t thing it’s fair comparing it to other formats, which have much more power and graphical capabilities (especially on PC, where with a top-end GPU you can crank everything up to 11). I don’t think the point of porting Doom to the Switch was to compete with the other version. I think the point was to show that, actually, a fast-paced, first-person shooter can work on Nintendo’s handheld console. The glory kills are here, the gore is here, the atmosphere is there: This is Doom.

There are purists who will say Doom on Switch doesn’t compare with the Xbox/PS/PC version and people are just cutting it slack because “It’s incredible that it’s on a portable platform at all” – and they’d be right to a certain degree (on how it doesn’t compare to versions on more powerful platforms) so they should steer clear of it, but for me, I determine a game on how fun it is, not whether it has cutting-edge graphics and how it compares to versions of it. Bottom line for me: Doom on Switch is a hell (pun intended) of a lot of fun on the Switch and frankly it look bloody fantastic.

Something that was a pain for me – and again it’s probably due to my eyes – but on-screen text was painfully small and hard to read: Even with my glasses on. Actually, even my son, who has 18 year old eyes, said the text was hard to read. He liked it but reckoned it could have looked better.

It’s good to see that major publishers are supporting the Switch but one concern I have with Bethesda’s strategy is that Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is coming to the Switch in early 2018 – and I’m not convinced that game is going to work as well as Doom. I haven’t played it but it’s a graphically stunning title that I’m not sure the Switch can do justice without some serious compromises. I guess we’ll find out next year.

Look, I might have old eyes but, man, this looks bloody good to me.

E3 Day Zero: The day before

E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) in Los Angeles has sort of started, with EA and Bethesda holding press conferences today, a day before the big hardware players hold theirs tomorrow.

PlayStation sent through a link for tomorrow’s presser, which starts about 1pm NZ time. You can watch it here (I’d really like it if you did). I’m hoping I can get up for for Microsoft conference but it’s at 4.30am so we’ll see how things go!

I didn’t watch the EA press event (but did watch the Mass Effect Andromeda trailer tonight: I’m impressed and will keep an eye on things) one but did watch some of the Bethesda one (including the cringeworthy opening sequence until the event proper started), and was impressed by what I saw of Dishonoured 2, a game that I’m keeping an eye on.

Here are some trailers of what happened today:

Dishonoured 2:

A reboot of Prey:

EA’s Mass Effect Andromeda:

Titanfall 2:

What are you hyped for from this year’s E3?

Fallout 4: Welcome to the Wasteland, my friend

Fallout-4I’m only about 11 hours into Fallout 4 but it’s grown on me more than I expected it to.

What I’m saying is that I didn’t think I’d like it as much as I did: It has some things I don’t like, it’s buggy and at one point the narrative didn’t sync with what I’d done earlier  but I’m enjoying it. I’ve taken on Super Mutants at a Brotherhood of Steel armoury, traded gun fire with synthetic humans in a hideout and see strange two-headed cows carrying supplies. The Wasteland is a strange, strange world. It’s set in what’s left of Boston.

I didn’t like Fallout 3 that much. In fact, I don’t remember playing much of it at all. It didn’t help that I had no idea how the VATS system worked or how deeply involved the RPG side could get. I gave up. I don’t regret that. It didn’t grab me so there was no point playing it.

Fallout 4 seems different, though. It seems lot more accessible than F3, but maybe that’s just because I’m more open-minded about the series now and am taking time to play it. I don’t have the time to sink 72 bajillion hours into it, neglect my family and be chained to my PC (I”m playing on PC) all hours  – I have a job to go to – but I’m playing an hour or so each night, so I guess you say I’m hooked.

I’ve met some interesting people along the way and I’ve tinkered around a little with the base building, too, and yeah, it’s fun. Actually, it could be the most engaging part of Fallout 4, even if Bethesda hasn’t really told people how to get the most out of it.

I built a rather shitty little hut in Sanctuary that had mismatching roof panels and gaps between the walls but the game let me hook a generator up to it and some lights. For some reason, I plonked a computer terminal outside it.  I should have taken a screenshot [note to self: Take some screenshots]

I don’t like the fact that it doesn’t take long for my character’s pockets/backpack/inventory to be full: The game constantly telling me I can’t run because of it and it’s buggy at times. During one mission, after I got into an elevator, my AI companion suddenly appeared beside me after the doors had closed. Then I managed to push him through the side of the elevator just by nudging him. I know people know Bethesda games are buggy, I hear people saying that all the time but is that acceptable? Should we accept the game in that state?

Fallout4_PrestonI know Fallout 4 is a huge game – hours and hours and hours long – but Bethesda just seem to get a Get out Jail Free card sometimes for the buggy nature of its games just because of the sheer scope and magnitude of them. People are saying Fallout 4 is Game of the Year material. I don’t know yet. If you’d asked me six hours into my play through, I would have said “Nope, it’s not Game of the Year for me”. Now, I’m not so sure. I’ve played a handful of really good games this year so I’m not picking that one yet.

I’m going to keep plugging away at Fallout 4. I want to explore more of the Wasteland, scavenge more useless stuff, and take out Super Mutants in my Power Armour. I want to meet more interesting characters like Nick Valentine.

Oh, yeah, about the Power Armour. You find it quite early in the game (I’m sure that’s not a spoiler), which I think kind of takes away the mystique of the whole thing. Someone told me that it took hours in Fallout 3 before you were even ready to use the Power Armour. In Fallout 4, your almost handed it on a plate during an early mission. Yes, the Power Armour is cool (until you run out of power core juice) but come on, Bethesda, let people work a little harder to get it, huh? I like the fact that you can customise your armour at special workstations and craft weapon mods and stuff. That’s really cool.

ScreenShot0Oh, hey, wait: I’ve just found a screen shot I took of me wearing Power Armour. I’m in the sky. On an airship owned by the Brotherhood of Steel.

So the long story short, so far, is that I’m liking Fallout 4. Whether I’ll still be enamoured in another 10 hours time, I’m not sure. I’ll keep you posted.

XONZ 2015 in pictures: A mini, mini E3, of sorts

Last Thursday, I was kindly flown to Auckland (a city in New Zealand in the North Island) by Xbox NZ to check out XONZ, an Xbox One-dedicated showcase of upcoming games and some hardware for the Xbox One console.

The event was open to invitees today but I attended the media day on Thursday.

While there weren’t a huge number of games on display, it was a nice, intimate event where I got to show how badly I suck at Halo MP (there were a couple of rounds of one of Halo 5 Guardian’s 24-player MP modes), I got to play through a level of the soon-to-be released Rise of the Tomb Raider, ate some popcorn chicken and some Mac ‘n cheese balls and then chat with Chris Bishop (Forza 6), Kevin Franklin (Halo 5 MP) and Mike Brinker (Crystal Dynamics/Rise of the Tomb Raider).

My interviews will be up when I’ve transcribed my interviews (I’m still yet to decide whether I just publish the audio of the interviews as is, with all the noise and stuff, or transcribe them and write a story from each one. If you have a preference, let me know in the comments)

I thought, though, to tide you over until I get the interviews posted/written up, I’d post some photos I took from the event. Caveat: The photos were taken with my smartphone (an HTC One M8) and it the venue was mood-lit (translation: It was dark with lots of Xbox green) so they’re not that great but I hope they capture the event nicely.

Disclaimer: A big thanks to Xbox NZ, which flew me from Christchurch to Auckland to attend the event. I paid for my bus fare from the Airport to the city and back again, though.  I was too cheap to pay for a taxi to get me there. 

Sharp looking: The hands belong to Xbox NZ chief Steve Blackburn and he's holding the new Elite controller. It's highly customisable and in high demand, even before it's launched.

Sharp looking: The hands belong to Xbox NZ chief Steve Blackburn and he’s holding the new Elite controller. It’s highly customisable and in high demand, even before it’s launched.

Lego Dimensions

Lego Dimensions

Vault Boy: This fine chap was guarding a presentation from Bethsda for Fallout 4.

Vault Boy: This fine chap was guarding a presentation from Bethsda for Fallout 4.

Bird's eye view: The main area at XONZ was where the Halo 5 Guardian's MP matches took place.

Bird’s eye view: The main area at XONZ was where the Halo 5 Guardian’s MP matches took place.

XONZ: Bathed in Xbox green, XONZ showcased upcoming Xbox One games.

XONZ: Bathed in Xbox green, XONZ showcased upcoming Xbox One games.

Pre-E3 day one: Bethesda brings the Doom, Dishonored & Fallout 4

Bethesda

Bethesda opened up its pre-E3 press event today, revealing the new Doom and, if I’m being honest, I was shocked by the gore on show.

I’ve played the Doom games (I played the original Doom on my father’s 486-power PC when I was a teenager) so know about the Over The Top violence, but the graphic nature of the new Doom, thanks to the realism a new generation of hardware can provide, took me somewhat by surprise. Maybe I’ve reached Over The Top Violence critical mass?

Maybe I’m getting old, but part of me wondered whether the gore was entirely necessary. Look, I’m not shocked by violence in movies or games if it’s central to the narrative but part of me saw the gruesome nature of Doom’s violence as perhaps fuel for anti-video game advocates to further have a go at our pastime. Clearly, the new Doom will be R-rated..

Doom is out in November for Xbox One, PC and PlayStation 4.

Bethesda also announced Dishonored 2, the follow-up to Arkane Studio’s great FPS game where you played an assassin in a steam-punk inspired London. This time, players will be able to play as either master assassin Corvo Attano or Emily Kaldwin, the daughter of the murdered Empress from the first Dishonored.

No release date was given for the game, which leads me to believe that it won’t be out till next year some time.

The biggest announcement, not surprisingly, was saved till last (although, it wasn’t a surprise: Fallout 4 was teased last week in a short trailer), with Bethesda’s Todd Howard taking the stage to reveal more details about the game. Here are some of them:

  • The character customisation is freshly unique in that players can change facial features on the fly , while looking at themselves in a bathroom mirror  – and you can play as a woman, which is a big step up from the normally male-dominated lead game roles. Hopefully more developers will follow Bethesda’s lead and give players the option to play as their preferred gender.
  • You’ll have a canine companion that you can issue commands to. Bethesda’s trailer show the video game dog staple, the German Shepard dog as your companion but tongue in cheek here, why can’t they have a dog like a Samoyed (like I have) for a chance? Although, I’m sure a Samoyed would lick an enemy first then flop on them, smothering them to death. That’s what my fluffy Samoyed would do.
  • There will be a Pip Boy Collector’s Edition which features a replica Pip Boy that you slot a smart phone into. There’s also a working Pip Boy app (iOS & Android) that is a working Pip Boy interface.
  • Fallout 4 is highly customisable where players can scavenge parts from the game world and use them to make new settlements, weapons and new structures. There’s also an iOS game Fallout Shelter that’s out now. It looks quite cute. I’ve already downloaded it and might play it tonight. No word on whether it’s coming for Android.

Fallout 4 is due out on November 10. Looks like November will be a busy month.

Quote of the show: “As far as stupid gimmicks go, this is the best fucking one I have seen.” Todd Howard, from Bethesda,  after revealing the Fallout 4 Pip Boy Collector’s Edition.

Xbox has it’s pre-show press event tomorrow morning (4.30am NZ time). If I get up, I’ll watch it. If I don’t, I’ll watch it later in the day.