Overwatch – Season 3 Placement Matches Done!

After 10 matches, ten mostly terrible matches, I made it through the placement stage for the latest season of Overwatch Competitive, with a 3 win, 7 loss record and a 2000-ish rank.

As it tends to happen with Overwatch competitive, you sometimes have amazing matches, where even if you lose, it’s an intense fight from start to finish. And sometimes, you have a team filled with abuse-spewing nincompoops who focus on themselves and not the overall team effort yet find ways of making everything other people’s fault. I know I screw up, a lot, and I can accept that and move on, learning from my mistakes, but I’m continually shocked at how people refuse to accept their parts in a loss, opting for just vitriol to hide the fact.  Continue reading Overwatch – Season 3 Placement Matches Done!

Best First-Person Shooter of 2016 (for me)

It’s December, the end of the year approaches and so many sites will start on their “Best Of” lists. I’m not a fan of them, least of all of Game of the Year nominations and awards. I think they’re short-sighted and often try to quantify games to pick a winner, often just the game with the highest review score, ignoring every other aspect of a game and its impact on the industry.

But with that said, I played more First person shooters in 2016 alone than the last couple of years combined. I don’t play the franchises with the yearly releases, as I need something more to attract me to the games. I often just play a single or a couple of first person shooters every year, those with the plot and elements that keep me playing.

I know I make it sound like I played a good baker’s dozens of first-person shooters, but in truth there were only 4:

  • DOOM: I played this in the past week, buying it during the latest Steam sale and enjoying it on my new computer. This game is badass and even being new and having shiny graphics, it made me remember the good old days of playing Doom and modified versions of Doom 2 with my friends, just killing demons one super-shotgun blast at a time.
  • Deus Ex: Mankind Divided: sure, I may play this game more as a first-person sneaker but it is still a first-person shooter. The only thing that brings it down, as I mentioned in an article a few days ago, is how the story doesn’t seem to go anywhere significant, how it feels incomplete, cut too short at the end of a prologue. But it’s still fun and interesting and I will always love the freedom of approach you have in Deus Ex games.
  • Overwatch: The only multiplayer-focused first-person shooter I’ve ever enjoyed. This is a fun and fast game, with amazing characters and a wonderful lore to back it all up. And with new maps and characters along with competitive seasons and rewards, it’s going to be a game I keep playing for a long while, particularly using the Green Cyborg Ninja Dude and Reinhardt!
  • Shadow Warrior 2: One of my latest acquisitions, bought along with DOOM in that Steam sale and a game that once I loaded it for the first time I could not let go until I had cleared the game. And then I restarted it on new game plus in a much higher difficulty level, something I rarely ever do.

Out of those four, I’m tempted to give the best of award to Overwatch, as it’s the game I’ve enjoyed the most over the year, the title I’ve defended to non-believers and one I just like so much that I’m willing to endure the competitive mode, one I’ve called a snake-pit in the past. And let’s not forget this is the game I’ve recorded the most videos for this year.

But to be honest, in the past week it became absolutely clear to me that despite some issues, the game I had the most fun with was Shadow Warrior 2. It has the action, fast paced and against incredible odds. It’s challenging, especially since it’s a hybrid First-person shooter and RPG and you get elite enemies with special properties, resistances and a ton of health. The bosses are great and can kill you.

Shadow Warrior 2
Lady Deathstroke?

Speaking of, it has a phenomenal death mechanic, like Dark Souls but with one clear difference that I think more games should implement: no loading times. If you die, you instantly respawn and get back into it.

Shadow Warrior 2 has a fantastic sense of humour and makes fun of itself—that and the many dick jokes—which is something it shares with Overwatch but not with the other two games on this list of nominees. It’s great to see Lo Wang just make fun of everyone and everything, with this as my favourite exchange:

Orochi Zilla:  “Guards!”

Wang: “I killed all your guards”

Orochi: “All of them?”

Wang: “What can I say? I was on a roll!”

And to prove his…unique sense of humour, he has another exchange with Kamiko, his spiritual companion in this game:

“You’re such a prick!”

“I consider myself more of a Wang!”

But what truly puts the game on the top of the list is the song for the final boss fight. It’s a new theme recorded by Stan Bush, the singer for “The Touch,” the theme song for the 1980s Transformers animated movie.

The song’s name is Warrior and it’s an 80s Rock anthem. The moment I heard the song I knew it, Shadow Warrior 2 was the best first person shooter of the year, for a simple thing, and I’ll say it again: I had the most fun with it.

And in the end, that’s what games are for, to have fun.

But that’s my best first-person shooter of the year, do you have a different one? Let me know in the comments or on social media!


Overwatch Analysis – On Storytelling

I like Overwatch. I think I’ve mentioned that in the past. It’s the first multiplayer first person shooter I’ve genuinely loved and I’m waiting for the launch next week on the 24th, the same day I return to streaming. Coincidence? Maaaaybe…

But that’s not what I’m going to talk about today. This time I want to focus on the story, characters and the storytelling—or lack thereof to be honest—of this new Blizzard Entertainment IP. Continue reading Overwatch Analysis – On Storytelling

Overwatch Beta – Ninja is my calling!

I’m not one for multiplayer in shooters. I don’t like Call of Duty multiplayer or even Team Fortress 2. I dabble once in a while, particularly because Timlah is extremely convincing—read “annoying until you give in”—and gets me to play Killing Floor.

But this is really not my type of game…until I played Overwatch. That one I dig, a lot! I played the first beta weekend months ago and this weekend I played another one and I just couldn’t stop. But things were different in my play style this time.

I found my character!

When I first played this weird quirky game of heroes shooting it out, I went for the tanks, the big burly guys that can take a beating, give it as good as they can take it and can keep others alive by being meat shields. I loved playing with Reinhardt and enjoyed the playstyle with D-Va. But in the end, I settled comfortably with Zarya and her pulse rifle and gravity abilities. I really enjoyed the playstyle with her. I did break out Hanzo, Reaper and Tracer once in a while to try something different, but tanking was my thing—which is very odd because in World of Warcraft, while I have enjoyed tanking, DPS is what I do best.

But this time around, it wasn’t tanking for me but full on DPS. In fact, I started the other way around, going for Zarya and Reinhardt first and just not feeling it. I switched to Hanzo, McCree and Reaper before finding my match with Genji, the Gray Fox-esque ninja. His main weapon are shuriken, he has a forward dash that deals damage, can deflect bullets, climb walls and his ultimate is pulling out the Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword. There are so many hidden references—in my head at least—for this character that I couldn’t pass him up.

I was jumping with joy!

I checked the difficulty for him, and it said 3-stars, meaning highly difficult character to play and master. I’m in no way a pro at anything but you know what? I’ve found the groove with this dude. The first few matches where horrendous, and I kept getting killed the moment I showed up. The shuriken don’t deal much damage compared to other characters, but they’re really fast. If you’ve played Overwatch, it’s kinda like Tracer’s guns, not that damaging but very fast.

But as I kept playing and dying I started finding the rhythm for the character—that is very fast and opportunistic. Genji’s a ninja and the best way to use him is as an assassin. Throw out your shuriken, whittle away the enemy’s health in the middle of some barrage and when you have them low enough, just start dashing into them. That’s how I started feeling it with the character, and soon I was being bolder, tackling the enemies early on and being very aggressive. I’ve dueled and defeated Tracers, though they’re still my main enemies, their blinking and rewinding abilities kick my ass most of the time, but when I mastered the deflection—or at least learned to use it properly—I could take them on without much issue. Reaper and Lúcio are my weakness right now, as their ultimate abilities are just too much for me. But I have taken out some players using Lúcio quite easily in the past.

Throw them out in a single line or spread the pain!

My highest kill spree has been 9 consecutive kills, not the best in any way, and quite tame when it comes to this game, but I was jumping in my seat. Hell, when I had the best play of the match I was cheering, a double kill on two Soldier: 76 players.

As for the Beta itself, it was good though I had a few matches with unbearable lag, so much so that I dashed ahead with Genji and found myself further back than when I started. I’ve been in laggy games, but that was a new one even for me! Overall I like the characters and the game balance, though Genji’s shuriken could use a teeny improvement. It could either be a teeny bit more damage or faster/no reloads on his shuriken.

If you’re opportunistic, you can get a lot of kills in, and help the team in the process!

I will definitely be picking up Overwatch when it releases, and most definitely on PC—can’t imagine playing this game with crane controls—and if you’re around to play with me, let me know, maybe you can teach me how to do it properly.

But if there’s one thing for sure, is that I’ll be in the shadows, with my shuriken and my sword, like a ninja!

Review: Wolfenstein: The New Order

Wolfenstein: The New Order is the latest entry in the world famous Wolfenstein series. Set in a reimagined 1960s where the Nazis win the war, BJ Blazkowicz is back to kicking Nazi ass.

The Good

  • Challenging gameplay
  • A perfect fusion of Old-School and Modern design
  • Fantastic Characterization

The Bad

  • Massive Download/Installation
  • BJ’s musings can get a bit annoying

The last Wolfenstein game I ever played was Return to Castle Wolfenstein, a game I loved, no matter how unfair it was. I skipped the next release, having seen what it was about and not finding anything there to interest me. Before that I played the original Wolfenstein, the Freeware version. I think I might have replayed that first act more times than I ever play the Doom Freeware, or the full versions for that matter.

I avoided watching or reading anything about this new Wolfenstein. I had no plans of buying it. I felt the FPS genre couldn’t give me anything new anymore. But then the Steam Sale hit and I got it along with a few other shooters, including Crysis 2 & 3, Farcry 3 (and Blood Dragon) and Rage; and to be perfectly and truly honest, Wolfenstein: The New Order is the best of them. Hands down, no two ways about it.

For the record, I played it on "Bring'em On!" I don't need daddy's permission to play!
For the record, I played it on “Bring’em On!” I don’t need daddy’s permission to play!

Much like every other Wolfenstein, this one opens in the series’ own fictionalized account of World War II. This time around the allied forces, among them BJ, mount a final assault on Totenkopf, Deathshead, the highest ranking General of the Third Reich and head of the technology division. His castle is protected by all manner of security and automate technology, and from the introductory stage, you can see and admire the level of detail that went into this game. While the Nazi have improved technology and electric grenades (Tesla Grenades the game calls them), it’s bulky and feels and looks archaic, the same way advanced technology looks in Steampunk settings. Automated defense cannons are extremely large and take up a third of the rooms that contain them. The opening stage also gives us plenty of examples of Totenkopf’s technical prowess, from the supersoldiers and Panzerhunds (giant robotic soldiers) to the giant Mech stomping around the battlefield.

Things don’t go as planned though and BJ ends up in an asylum in Russia in vegetative state. You see years going past him, days going into nights and the only constant being his nurse, Anya. When Nazis come one day to close the asylum and kill all the patients they take Anya with them, but before they can kill him, BJ awakens from his conditions and (with your direct input) butchers every soldier around, rescuing Anya and taking her to her grandparents, where they tell him the war is over. The Nazis won the war and have been the masters of the world for the past 14 years. It is now 1960.

Seems legit, right? Especially when you reload and don't drop either of them!
Seems legit, right? Especially when you reload and don’t drop either of them!

I have to admit that when you first control BJ after he wakes up, I was pleasantly surprised, for a moment, that he wobbled when walking, as anyone in a 14 year old coma/vegetative state would. Muscles atrophied, he shouldn’t have been able to walk, or at least do it properly. But after a few minutes it’s almost as if BJ found the walking manual and you once again control him at his best. I can’t deny that this broke the immersion for me. I couldn’t see past it, it was too much. I went way over my suspension of disbelief, or as I like to call it, my Bullshit Tolerance Threshold.

I could have stopped there, and not kept going, but despite my reservations on his miraculous recovery, the story and BJ himself kept me going. Unlike other protagonists, BJ comments on his situation, the tone similar to a Noir character. He muses on his surroundings, on his mission, enemies and even allies and friends. Blaskowicz feels alive, not just some unknown soldier fighting his enemies. This is also the first time in Wolfenstein history where BJ is identified as Jewish but it’s not made part of the plot, it doesn’t take center stage, instead it’s just one of the many details about this man, just as if he were one of us.

Sneak kills are oddly satisfying! Or maybe I've played too much Assassin's Creed!
Sneak kills are oddly satisfying! Or maybe I’ve played too much Assassin’s Creed!

Sometimes though, the musings and internal monologue come too frequent and can get rather tedious. It frames the narrative from BJ’s point of view but it’s one case of less is more. What I do like is they’re never witty quips or one-liners but reflections made by a man fighting a war for a couple of decades.

Wolfenstein: The New Order is a modern shooter with firm classic roots. Selecting difficulty presents images of BJ dressed as a baby for the easier modes, meant to mock you if you choose them. Leaving the game presents you with a taunt, similar to those found in the original game of the series or the original Doom. Your health is presented as a number, but you can acquire health upgrades and if you take damage, your health replenishes over time, but just to the nearest ten (so if you drop to 43 health, it’ll stop regenerating at 50), if you want to heal more, get some health kits and food. You can overcharge your health by using healing items while at your maximum, but that extra health drains slowly. Weapons can be dual wielded, even assault rifles, as funny as that looks, and as long as you find a second gun of each type you can dual wield any of them. Except of course the LaserKraftWerk.

This game displays its roots proudly!
This game displays its roots proudly!

Early on, you get access to a laser pistol. It doesn’t damage enemies but is used to cut through grating, but later you acquire the aforementioned weapon. At first it only works as a stronger version of the laser pistol or a very slow laser cannon in its secondary firing mode, but then you start getting upgrades for it, from a scope to one that gives it full automatic fire.

Personally though, I never really did play this game guns blazing. As with many other games, I prefer the stealth approach and Wolfenstein handles that very well. You need to be careful how you move, trying to make as little sound as possible. If enemies see you, you need to make sure you silence them as soon as possible, even more so if they are officers. Often you will intercept radio signals, the amount of them telling you how many officers are near you. If an officer discovers you, they will sound the alarm and you’ll be constantly swarmed by reinforcements until you kill the officer and the alarm signal they produce.

I love the details in every locations. They really bring this alternate reality alive!
I love the details in every locations. They really bring this alternate reality alive!

To support the different playstyles, Wolfenstein: The New Order introduces Perks but you don’t acquire them by leveling; instead each perk is a challenge, complete it and you get the perk and an achievement. For example, one such Perk is the ability to regain health every time you perform a silent kill on an enemy, but to unlock it you need to perform five suck kills while being on health overcharge. It sounds easy but it’s actually pretty tricky. The good thing is that once unlocked, if you die and need to redo the section, you don’t lose the Perk. There are different Perk Trees, each with its set of challenges and rewards and over the course of my playthrough I acquired a bit of everything.

It’s a good thing you don’t lose Perks if you die during the section in which you got them as the game’s difficulty is considerably high compared to other shooters. There is no cover mechanic in this one, so you need to be aware of your surrounding and above all play it smart. Jumping into the middle of a group guns blazing will get you killed as much as insisting on stealth when you know it’s not the right way to go about it. Wolfenstein often forces you to adapt and change your strategies and I can only wish more games did that. It’s exciting.

Above all though, killing Nazis is fun, and did I mention there’s a Lunar mission? Yes, you’re killing Nazis in a moon base! Best of all though, and something that made me laugh, was the inclusion of the original Wolfenstein in the game. There’s a bed in the rebel base, and if you point at it, the interaction button appears, stating, Nightmare.” If you press the button, BJ will go lie down and dream of playing the original game. It’s the original Wolfenstein but your guns and BJ’s model stay the same, being a high-res character in a low-res nightmare.

The Perks system is weird, but it works, and that's what's important!
The Perks system is weird, but it works, and that’s what’s important!

I love this game’s characterization. Every single character has the same level of work put into them than the protagonist, even the Nazis you encounter throughout the game. I don’t mean the cannon fodder you gleefully go through but the major ones. Frau Engel and Bubi are one such case. Deathshead on the other hand stays the same for most of the game and he never gets fleshed out, but then again you only see him a couple of times. The rebellion is a mix of wonderful personalities, especially Klaus. There is so much depth to this character and his adopted son Max Hass that you can’t help but feel for them, to care about their well-being.

The plot itself starts rather simple, but over the course of the game there are added complexities in the form of the Dat Yichud, a Jewish secret society responsible for developing the technologies Deathshead acquired and appropriated to help the Nazi win the war and conquer the world. It’s a wonderful concept, a society that seeks to reach God by creating. The simple act of creation itself is enough.

One of the few times you see the bad guy, but it's a memorable one!
One of the few times you see the bad guy, but it’s a memorable one!

The story has a wonderful pace, and while even with the DY is rather simple, it’s only one part of the game, the wonderful characterization adding depth and character and complexity to this story. If the cast weren’t so outstanding, both in vocal performance and writing, then it wouldn’t matter how intricate the story was, because at the end of it, Wolfenstein: The New Order is a story about people.

Accompanying the outstanding vocal design is the terrific music, designed to match not the game and play style, but the Nazis, adding another layer to the storytelling. This is their world, so the music had to reflect that, but at the same time the music is based on 60s era style performances. As the music producer called it, it’s “a tribute to all things guitar.” And no track better represents the overall style of the game than the title song, the one you hear in the menu. It’s a full electric guitar track, but it has odd moments, the music seemingly distorted, playing on your sense of hearing.

I’m not a fan of big visuals. Let me rephrase that, I don’t put emphasis on them, but The New Order looks brilliant. For me it’s not about how realistic the people look, but the details, and the level of detail in the art design is outstanding. Every level is designed in such a way that even the most open of locations feels restricted and oppressive, the same way the characters feel in this world. I also loved how even 20 years in the future, Nazi aesthetics hadn’t changed much and everything had a distinct WWII vibe, from the vehicles to the Nazi soldiers themselves.

There is one big downside to the visuals however, is how large the installation is. It’s painful to see, download and see downloading. This game has the dubious honour of being the largest game I have ever installed on my PC, taking up to 40GB of memory. It’s nearly 5% of your 1 TB HDD, that’s a lot.

I think about 15GB went into that mech!
I think about 15GB went into that mech!

But having said so, I can safely tell you that it is worth it. Wolfenstein: The New Order isn’t just an outstanding entry in this long running series, but one of the best made games ever.

The Mental Attic Score: Worth Overpaying. I say it to keep my scoring standard, to give it the highest score attainable in The Mental Attic. In truth, it’s worth its asking price of $60. It’s worth every penny, more so than any other game released in the past few years.

Review: Rage

Rage is first person shooter, developed by id, the people behind Quake and Doom and fathers of the FPS genre. It puts you behind a random Ark survivor, someone with nanobots in his system, in an inhospitable post-apocalyptic environment. It’s id’s version of Borderlands, basically. Continue reading Review: Rage

Reviews – Borderlands 2


Come join the party in the dust and the sand…Says a Borderlands 2 inspired song by Gavin Dunne from Escapist Magazine’s Miracle of Sound (which by the way, yes, that is also his stage name), and it sort of echoes the call the game gives out to its players, inviting them to come, newcomers and veterans, and play in Pandora once more, a planet where every inhabitant, the fauna and flora all go out of their way to try and kill you, overkilling you if possible. Continue reading Reviews – Borderlands 2