Category Archives: Gaming

Operation Flashpoint Red River Review

I’m a huge fan of military shooters and have been for a long time.  My first, and one of the most memorable, was Airborne Ranger by MicroProse that came out in 1987.   I’ve been an avid player of most, not-all military shooters since then.   My latest military first-person carnage-fest was Operation Flashpoint: Red River (OFRR) released by Codemasters.

The Story

OFRR is set in modern-day Tajikstan.  You and your fireteam, lead by Sgt. Knox (voiced my Reno Wilson) are part of a Marine Expeditionary Unit deployed in Tajikistan to prevent insurgents (insert fake Al-Qaeda-esque name here) from gaining a foothold in the region.  This becomes rapidly unimportant.

Like any military shooter, things go from bad to holy-shit-storm after the third mission.  There’s not really a lot of spoilers available; the plot isn’t full of of twists and turns.  In case you want to read between the lines, Tajikistan is on the eastern border of China and China doesn’t like that.  Once more, like Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising things turn into a battle royale (with cheese if you’re French) with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

Gameplay

The gameplay in OFRR is pretty standard fare.  The missions are based on scripted checkpoints, so if you fail you’ll go back to the last auto-save.  Unlike previous OF games, you aren’t humping 2000 m, 2 kilometers for you metric muckity-mucks between objectives.  On the rare occasion that you do have to travel long distances, there’s a HUMVEE present, unless you’re not careful and it gets destroyed.  Then  you’ll be taking the shoe-leather express, and let us hope your mission isn’t timed (which most of them are not).

Progression through the game unlocks additional levels, weapons and equipment.  As you gain levels you unlock other equipment you can use to customize what you are carrying as well as add points to attributes, like endurance, sprint speed, situation awareness (which lets you spot enemies quicker and farther), and weapons handling.  You can customize each role in your squad as well as what role you want to play.  There aren’t a quadrillion items to choose from so don’t fret.

As part of your massive array of skills (sarcasm) you can also change stances between standing, crouching and prone. Cover is available and if you attempt to use iron sights while behind a wall or under a window you will “pop-up” automatically to aim.  Taking cover will tend to keep you from becoming chow mein (see what I did there?), for the most part, but heavier ammo will penetrate walls and blood tends to obscure your view.

Graphics

OFRR is an amazing looking game.  The visuals are quite beautiful when you have a chance to look at the scenery between fire-fights.  Character models and animation are smooth and life-like.  Bullet holes appear when walls and vehicles take damage, walls explode and will break into pieces and vehicle explosions look realistic.

Operation Flashpoitn Red River
Look...Boobs!

That being said, there’s not a lot of variety when it comes to the graphics.  The PLA soldiers look identical (though I did tend to shoot them far away) as do the Marines not in your fireteam.  I did run into some issues when using the sniper scope.  Buildings that I would look at would tend to have pixellated graphics in certain areas.  Honestly, I didn’t care too much at the time because I was trying to save my ass and keep a minimal number of holes in my body.

Sound

Sound quality was excellent, though it felt more like I was using a paintball gun and less of a heavy rifle.  Ambient sounds, voice chatter and vehicle sounds were realistic.  There was variety between weapons while being fired, but they seemed to lack the “heaviness” you’d associate with firing an assault rifle.  The heavy machines do sound like you’re ripping open Hell Itself and the grenade launcher has a pretty hearty explosion and works to great effect.

Artificial Intelligence

The AI in OFRR was hit or miss.  Squad mates are controlled via a Radial Menu and can be assigned specific tasks, go here, run there, suppress THOSE guys or HEAL IDIOT WHO DIDN’T LISTEN.  Get used to HEAL IDIOT WHO DIDN’T LISTEN.  Your squadmates are useful and will put the enemy down, but from time to time they will act like morons and run between you and the enemy, particularly if you’re defending a location, and get shot for their idiocy.  They will call for help and now your corpsman will run out and get shot for being such a team player.  Thankfully, in such cases, you can heal yourself as well as your team, unless they are incapacitated aka dead as door nails.  Overall, your AI is useful 80% of the time, but you’ll get used to the radial menu after the first few missions and memorize the few keystrokes you’ll need to get them to do what you ask (or close enough for government work).

Enemy AI on the other hand, are almost all crack shots once you get above Normal.  They don’t really flank or attempt to do more than suppress you.  Those that aren’t attempting miraculous 300m headshots will attempt to run in and blast you to tiny pieces and fill you with lead.  Upon many occasions they will charge at a fixed .50 cal machine gun and then CROUCH (because I’d totally crouch in front of a gun shooting half-inch bullets at me at a couple hundred rounds per second) to take a shot.

The enemy will use RPGs and rockets on you, but only in later missions.  They can use these to devastating effect and obliterate you and your Marines in short order.  When your squadmates yell “AT Soldier at …” you should hone in quick and remove that threat.

Enemy vehicles don’t do much more than act as targets. They will shoot at you, and use their main weapon and grenade launchers, but you only run across APCs and very few tanks.  They can be dealt with pretty simply as during those events a SMAW or Javelin is available.  The same goes for any missions with enemy helicopters, there is normally a Stinger missile around that you can use.  Handy.

Overall

I enjoyed OFRR, it was an enjoyable romp playing super-soldier in a group of super-soldiers.  There’s not a huge amount of weapon variety and you’re not going to be driving any tanks here.  The heaviest weapon you will yield will be a .50 cal emplacement or hand-held weapon such as the SMAW or Stinger missile.

The game is a mix between Call of Duty style play and Arma.  It’s slightly more realistic than CoD and 1/10th of military simulation that Arma or Arma II (and expansions) is.  CoD is full of “holy crap I can’t just believe that” moments while OFRR is closer to “Jeez that was kinda hellish but thankfully I only had to reload my game TWICE that time” moments.

The voice work is well-done, Sgt Knox can be annoying.  I’ve worked with Marines while in the service and none of them had quite such a foul mouth as this guy.  He’s a little over-the-top, most of the time, and you’ll hear from him constantly.  His most endearing speech is actually delivered at the end of the game after the final battle where he finally answers “Knox’s Rules of Combat, Rule Number Three.”

Al Williams, who played Sgt Apone in Aliens voices Colonel Hardaway, who is also a bit over the top and seems half-crazy as you work your way through the ten mission campaign.

Operation Flashpoint Red River is a fun game, it’s like a summer movie you’d see just to enjoy explosions and pop corn.  It’s a mindless ride that requires nothing more than a quick trigger finger and a little tactical thinking.  OFRR appears to be a game that couldn’t decide what it wanted to be, but what it does it does well.  OFRR is the bastard child of Call of Duty and Arma, and does neither of those games justice.

Overall verdict: 2.5 out of 5 whatevers.

Games For Windows Live Section 8

If you’re like me and play to completion try out a lot of PC games, you’re bound to run across a few errors or two.  Today I picked up Section 8 by TimeGate Studios.  Section 8 is a team-based first-person shooter and overall it’s pretty fun (I’ll put a review up one of these days).

The Error

I’m not a huge fan of Games For Windows Live, though thank you to Microsoft for trying to merge their gaming into one place.  When I tried to start the game I received the following error.

“Games For Windows Live Failed To Initialize”

Oh error message, thanks for the symptom.   That’s real helpful.  So I took to the Internet to find out, fearless adventurer that I am.  (No kobolds were harmed in the solving of this problem.)

I ran across this post that fixed the issue.  If you’re lazy and don’t want to click the link here’s the gist of it.

Games For Windows Live Failed To Initialize – Section 8

This is an issue with the executable file protection aspect of Comodo Personal Firewall.  Oddly, in my case, I have Comodo’s “Defense+” feature disabled but it was still biting me.  Take note: even if you have it disabled this will still affect you.  One more time for those who don’t like to read: EVEN WITH COMODO DISABLED YOU WILL STILL HAVE THIS PROBLEM. Okay, I feel better now…

Here’s how we fix this problem:

EVEN WITH COMODO DISABLED YOU WILL STILL HAVE THIS PROBLEM

  1. Open Comodo and click on the Defense+ Tab
  2. Click on “Defense+ Settings”
  3. Change to the “Execution Control Settings” Tab
  4. Click the “Exclusions” button
  5. Add the these two files “<Steam Directory>\Steamapps\common\section 8 prejudice\s9.exe” and “<Steam Directory>\Steamapps\common\section 8 prejudice\binaries\win32\s9-win32-F.exe”
  6. Apply those and click “Okay” until you’re back to the main menu and then close Comodo’s settings panel

EVEN WITH COMODO DISABLED YOU WILL STILL HAVE THIS PROBLEM
I do feel better this time.  You’ve been warned.

You should be good-to-go. If you run across any issues drop me a line in the comments.

My Dragon Age 2 Review

Dragon Age: Origins was a phenomenal game.  Open-ended, non-linear (minus the main story) role-playing in true Bioware fashion.  It was great to customize your party, slay Darkspawn and become the Hero Of Ferelden.  Killing demons, dragons and also helping the Kingdom along the way.  It was immersive, it pulled you in with its claws and didn’t let go.

Dragon Age 2 Hawke
This is you. Or could be.

The lore and mythology of Dragon Age has both width and depth.  The Grey Wardens, the King, the Chantry and the Templars, the Circle of Magi; all had their own agendas and you had to choose your path and navigate the politics as well as the many dungeons inside Dragon Age.  It was massive.  On my first play through as a Human Noble Origin it took me (and I’m a little slow but no turtle) about 50 hours to beat with having only explore 42% of the World (that includes that there are other Origins that are about 10% of the content each.

Dragon Age 2 is much smaller.  There are still hordes of bad guys to kill, of all shapes and sizes.  The main factions are still there, the Grey Wardens aren’t much of it as you play a new hero “Hawke” in a framed narrative.  Your story being told over the course of a decade by one of your compatriots.  You are a refugee from the Blight (Dragon Age: Origins) and have fled the Blight to the city of Kirkwall, a rather unsavory city that doesn’t like refugees.

Kirkwall Dragon Age 2
Kirkwall... What a crapfest in a hand basket.

The story skips forward over the course of the year as you accomplish the main plot missions.  It’s done well, the framed narrative works in this regard.  I was concerned I wasn’t going to feel I was part of the story, but I didn’t feel that way at all.

Your companions are varied, and fit all of the roles you’d need.  Mage, rogue, warrior, etc.  Those are the main archtypes but you are able to customize their skills to fit your need.  Their motivations are particularly clear and choosing the “wrong” answers in conversations or in quests you choose can cause you to gain “Rivalry” with them.  Conversely, appease their moral sense and you will gain “Friendship.”  This is similar to the Paragon and Renegade mechanic from Mass Effect but unlike you having to manage yourself, you’ve got your companions to worry about, individually.  You’ll soon find your favorite set of companions for your adventures, but for their “companion missions” you’ll need to take the applicable companion along for the ride, so to speak.

Dragon Age 2 Companions
See these guys? That's some of your posse. And they know how to bring it.

Graphics and Sound

The graphics are wonderful in the game.  DirectX 11 support really brings a lot to the table in this game.  Reflective surfaces shine, magic effects pop and the game looks crisp and smooth.  The character animations are top-notch and the models are superb.  If you’re not playing in DirectX 11 the game still looks good, but much of the minute detail is gone.

As you’d expect from a Bioware game, the soundtrack is perfect.  It’s very melodious and flowing and easily changes into the drums and chants during combat.  It really is a perfect score for this game.  Inon Zur has outdone himself, the main composer for both Dragon Age games.

Combat

Combat is different than in the original game.  You can still pause the action whenever you’d like and order your companions around (or take control of them if you choose.)   Combat is much faster paced and I, for one, did not like that I could not easily hit the Tab key to cycle targets.  Right-clicking on an enemy will target him just as right-clicking on the ground will move you.  With combat being so fast, I had a tendency to click the ground by accident, run past the enemy and get slashed across my spine for my clumsiness.

Attacks are vicious and instantaneous.  Your skills have a cool down (which can be decreased as you level up).  You can also use “cross-class combos” to coordinate deadly attacks against your opponents.

Gripes

I only have a few complaints about the game.  I know it didn’t review well at “Formal” review sites like Gamespot and IGN but I’m a bit more forgiving than they are.

  1. Repetitive Areas – If you don’t know your way around Kirkwall at the start, you soon will.  There are several main areas of the city and you will visit them.  A lot.  All of the time.  Constantly.  Seriously, you will be the Google Street Car for Kirkwall.  You’ll visit the areas over and over again completing quests.  Deal with it.  A bit annoying but not a deal breaker.
  2. Bland Area Textures – There’s not a lot of variety once you’re in an area.  Darktown is dark and dusty.  Lowtown is dusty.  Hightown has lots of stone.  It’s not ugly but there’s not a huge amount of variety.
  3. Combat – I like that my skills have possibly devastating effects, but I like the combat in DA: Origins much better.  Origins combat was much more tactical.  In Dragon Age 2 I feel like I’m just waiting for a cooldown to expire, like I’m playing an MMO like Rift.
  4. Romantic Entanglements – They are done well.  They fit all types of lifestyles, straight, gay, bi-sexual, lesbian, you name it.  Downside, I didn’t like that Anders or Fennric hit on my male player instantly.  It felt a little “too much too soon.”  Being a straight gamer, I’m satisfied with the two choices that you’re provided as the romance options.  Again, my only gripe was the two guy companions hit on me instantly when they were part of my group, the two straight options did not.
Dragon Age 2 Romance
Whoa... Maybe I should play a female next time. Who is the creep by the door?

I’d give Dragon Age 2 a 4 out of 5.  It’s not as good as the original but it’s pretty damn close.  My only real gripe that bothers me is the scope of the game.  In Dragon Age: Origins you’re saving a country and possibly the world.  In Dragon Age 2 you’re much more focused to one city.

My Initial Rift Review

Does Rift live up to the hype?  Is Rift a “WoW Killer?”  Quite honestly, three days after launch and several days after the “pre-purchase” headstart, it’s too soon to tell.

Rift takes place in a Telara, a world that sits at a junction of the elemental planes.  Because of it’s strategic location it’s been assaulted by different elemental forces and it’s people wiped out.  The god’s of  Telera intervened and resurrected the Guardians (aka your good guys) to fight the invasions.  On the other hand, you have the Defiant, who reject the gods and choose technology as their path to fight the invasions.

Graphics

First off, Rift is pretty.  Prettier than World of Warcraft has ever been.  The visuals are great, the particle effects are beautiful and so far (I’m leisurely playing and only level 15 after several hours of gaming), the character models are great on NPCs, creatures and Player Characters.  Texture modeling and detailing looks superb with glinting armor, embossed designs on clothing and deep design on the models.

Sound

The sounds are pretty top-notch to any MMO.  There’s not a huge variation between sound effects when it comes to the creature death gurgles and such.  Weapon hits and the sounds of battle do sound great, however.

General Game Information

I play on a Player versus Environment (PvE) server and not Player versus Player (PvP) so I can’t speak too much about the second.  PvE balance has always been an issue as well as PvP in any MMO.  At this time I’m hearing alot about Warfronts being mismatched with too many people on one-side or the other.  Just three days after launch there is plenty of balancing that needs to be done on both sides of the game.

Rift is highly accessible. If you’ve played ANY MMO the controls will be familiar.  Most of the key functions for opening the map, or your bags, as examples, are directly ported from your major MMOs like WoW or Lord of the Rings Online.  There are some really great touches however.  My personal favorite is that bringing up the map blocks the screen, like any MMO, but when you move it goes 80% transparent, allowing you to use the map while you move.

Rifts

We have to talk about Rifts.  Rifts are “invasions” that randomly spawn across the zones at, or around, a level commensurate to that zone.  If a Rift isn’t closed quickly it can expand into a full-blown invasion that can quickly overwhelm parts of the area.  The creatures that spawn will ultimately begin to attack areas around the Rift and hamper your ability to complete quests.

Rift allows you, or your group, to quickly join into a “Public Group,” a short-term raid in essence, to combine your efforts and get credit and rewards for sealing the Rift.   You can then attack and seal the Rift with the help of everyone who wants to join.

Downside, if no one is around, these Rifts will basically make your life a living Hell until the server spawns “Guardian” forces to help until it seals on it’s own.

Rift is a fun game, I recommend picking it up if you are looking to scratch your itch for a new MMO.  Exciting combat, raiding, and lots and lots of loot are always good things to look forward to.

NETWAR 16.0 November 7th and 8th

Publicizing this for the masses.

NETWAR 16.0 IS THIS WEEKEND!!!

–Event Details–

NETWAR 16.0 will take place at The Digz Sports Arena in Omaha, Nebraska on Friday November 7th, 2008 starting at 7:00pm and going all day and night for 26 hours straight, ending on Saturday November 8th at 9:00pm.

PLEASE DO NOT COME EARLY! The event doors open at 7:00pm on Friday, no exceptions!!

You may arrive at anytime during the event and leave whenever you wish.

A large selection of food will be available for purchase from the kitchen for the entire event. Pepsi and Coke products, including Mt. Dew, will be available for purchase at the event.

YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO BRING FOOD OR DRINK INTO THE VENUE. I cannot stress this enough, this is not our rule. The venue staff will evict you from the premises for breaking this rule. You are welcomed to leave and grab food and drink from somewhere else, just don’t bring it back inside with you.

–Registration–

If you have registered and you find out that you are not going to be able to make it to the event, PLEASE UNREGISTER on the web site!

If you have not yet signed up for NETWAR 16.0, IT IS NOT TOO LATE! DO IT NOW!

For directions to the event, please visit the event details page and click on directions.

Registration for NETWAR 17.0 is now open! The event will take place April 10-11th, 2009 at The Digz. You can register for the next event by clicking on Upcoming Events on the web site.

–Waiver–

If you have not signed a NETWAR waiver before you will need to. Please visit our site, print it off, sign it, and bring it with you to the event. If you are under the age of 18, please print the waiver and have your parents/guardian sign it and then bring that waiver with you to the event.

— Loading / Unloading Computer At The Event—

Please park in the large south parking lot. When you are loading/unloading your computer you may park next to the door. After you have completed unloading, please MOVE YOUR CAR!! to a spot farther away so that other attendees can have an easy time getting their computers in/out just like you did.

Please use the southwest doors to enter the building, they will be marked. PLEASE WATCH YOUR STEP!! THE ENTRANCE HAS A STEP at the door that you MAY NOT SEE when carrying your computer!

When you get to the event, you may come right inside and bring in your computer and put it where you want to sit. Sometime soon come to the registration table and get yourself checked in and paid ($20 if registered on the web site). We will enter you into the raffle drawing and give you a lanyard. The lanyard must be worn at all times. This proves that you have paid the entry fee.

Here is a list of items you will need to bring to our LAN party:

1. Computer Tower (or notebook computer)
2. Monitor
3. Category 5 Network Cable (15 Feet or Longer)
4. Power cable for monitor
5. Power cable for computer
6. 6 Outlet Power Strip
7. Headset
8. Keyboard
9. Mouse
10. Mouse Pad
11. Software (Games of course!)
13. Optional: Your favorite desk chair
14. Optional: Sleeping bag and pillow if you need to sleep.

System Check List Before Attending:

1. Scan your computer for Viruses with Trendmicro Housecall or other software before attending! We don’t want what you might have on our network.

http://housecall.trendmicro.com

2. Scan computer for Malware with Ad-Aware and/or Spybot-S&D before attending!
Ad-Aware – http://www.lavasoftusa.com
Spybot-S&D – http://www.safer-networking.org/en/index.html

3. All windows updates installed. (Important! If you do not want to catch a virus at the event)
4. Anti-Virus software installed and updated.
5. Installed all games you wish to play.
6. Patched all games you installed to their latest version

–Tournaments–

Instead of doing Double or Single elimination tournaments we will be using the Swiss Round Robin System for all of the tournaments. The Swiss tournament system has NO ELMINIATION, it will allow all participants/teams to be able to play in every tournament round of the tournament no matter how good or bad you are doing.

For more information about Swiss Round Tournament go here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swiss_system_tournament

Tournament Games:
Call of Duty 4 – 5 vs. 5
Counter-Strike: Source – 5 vs. 5
Team Fortress 2 – 6 vs. 6
Guitar Hero World Tour

Please be aware that tournament participation is completely OPTIONAL, you can choose which tournaments you want to play in or you can choose not to play in any tournaments. We cater for both the competitive gamer and the hobbyist gamer who just enjoys playing his favorite games with many other gamers just for fun while winning big door prizes. With so many gamers at the event you will easily be able to find someone else who enjoys playing the games you do.

If you wish to participate in tournaments while at the event but you are not part of any team, you can easily join a PUG (Pick-Up Game) team or join a shorthanded team. We will help you with this during registration for the tournament at the event.

— Suggested Game Period —

This will be a period of time listed on the schedule where we select one game and urge everyone to play this game on the many game servers that we will have running during that time. The purpose of this is to get as many players at the event playing the same game at the same time. It is not required that you play the suggested game, as the name states, it is only suggested. This is not a tournament; you can join and quit the game at any time.

–Prizes–

To make the prize distribution fair and make the tournament atmosphere less tense, we have decided to shift all prizes to raffle only. This will allow anyone to win something no matter what skill level you have as well as bring the fun back into the tournaments. Tournament winners will be awarded with a trophy, some prize or swag and bragging rights. Then you can win large prizes in the raffle.

— Sponsors —

This is a list of sponsors supporting NETWAR, for a list of what they are donating please visit the event details section of our web site. We are excited at the amount of prizes we will be giving away for this event. You would have to be crazy not to attend! :-)

Cox Communications
FSP Group
D-Link
Computer Power User
Computer Geeks
University of Nebraska at Omaha – IS&T
TRENDnet
UGO Game News

For more information about sponsors, prizes, tournaments, directions to the venue, and the schedule for the event please visit our website, click on event details. While you are there you can get yourself registered.

Feel free to sign in to our forums to post about tournaments, teams, upcoming game releases, and pretty much anything else that sparks your interest. Don’t forget about our IRC channel and Ventrilo server as well.

Web Site: http://www.netwar.org

Call Of Duty 4 Review…

Intense and action packed thrill-ride. Call of Duty 4 is one frickin’ awesome game. I give this game 9 out of 10 stars. You’re going to ask yourself why I just gave it nine out of ten. Go ahead and ask, I will tell you but only after I tell you all of the things I liked about this game.

First, the graphics are superb. The lighting, texture and shading is so realistic I could practically feel the sand blowing into my face and hear the crack of the bullets flying at me. The scent of burnt cartridge primer filled my nostrils. Incredible visuals in this game, from the facial animations to the flames of burning cars.

Level design was challenging and somewhat linear. This isn’t a negative, it kept the action moving nicely and there’s no danger of getting “lost” like in many First Person Shooters. The AI is extremely intelligent and actually fights to live.

The story was not really new, but well done and portrayed with good dialogue and voice acting. A few of the cutscenes are shown from the view of a non-playable perspective, such as the deposed leader of a Middle Eastern country who is on his way to his…um…you’ll see.

The only thing I didn’t like was that the game was short. I mean REALLY short. For $49.99 you’d think the game would last longer than 5-7 hours, depending on how fast you burn through it. There’s plenty of replayability in Multi-Player but the single player seemed like it was over in a blink. The plus side of this is that you don’t feel bogged down in FPS mechanics. The game progresses fast and doesn’t have you running around trying to find keycards or stacking crates to get through an air vent.

BUY THIS GAME! You’ll not be disappointed.

NetWar LAN Party Kicks Off Tomorrow

The Travko / CGServers.com NetWar LAN party kicks off tomorrow night here in Omaha at Digz on 132nd Street and Old L. So far there’s 220+ signed up to participate.

It’s a great event. I went to the last event held in the spring and it was a blast. A lot of the attendee’s slept in sleeping bags on the floor.

Read more info here! Twenty-six hours of gaming carnage.

The history of the American football is filled with surprises and astonishing moment. It’s filled with the nail biting moments as well as thrilling slogans. One of these matches was the one between kansas city chiefs which is the most aggressive team and the defending champs the miami dolphins. The Kansas had won four of their last five games against teams that played in the previous season’s super bowl. Some interesting facts about minnesota vikings, vikings defensive backs coach Darren Perry signed a contract with the Chargers in 1999 but never played with the team due to a neck injury. One of the famous teams is new england patriots, nicknamed the “Pats” by sports writers and fans, are a professional American football team based in Fox borough.