Cards Against Humanity: Science Pack Full Spoiler

12 04 2015

Occasionally Cards Against Humanity releases themed mini-expansions such as their yearly holiday packs and one-offs like the 90s Pack or Reject Pack. This time around we’re treated to the Science Pack, filled with informed-sounding jargon and science-y references perfect for you to play with and exchange pretentious knowing glances with your learned friends that “f***ing love science.”

GO TO PAGE 2 FOR THE FULL SPOILER. WARNING: NSFW (duh)





Cards Against Humanity: Sixth Expansion Full Spoiler

4 04 2015

The CAH expansions almost seem to be outpacing the years that pass at this point, which is nothing to complain about unless you’ve got some kind of cognitive disorder. The CAH train seems to be bustling along with their yearly promotional stunts, holiday specials, and even acquisition of vast tracts of land such as “Hawaii 2,” so lets look forward to more releases and success from the CAH team! Unless, you know, you’re a shitty person or something.

Curiously, there are no PICK 2 black cards in the sixth expansion. Perhaps they are trying to adjust the ratio of single-picks to the doubles after the glut of PICK 2s from recent expansions.

If you’re wondering why there’s no 5th expansion spoiler here, it’s because by the time I got around to writing it up I discovered it was already available. Go check out the CAH page on boardgamegeek.com if you want to see it.

GO TO PAGE 2 FOR THE FULL SPOILER. WARNING: NSFW (duh)





Review: Ori And The Blind Forest

21 03 2015

Of the various announcements and upcoming games shown at E3 2014, through the onslaught of sequels and reboots there was a small unassuming flower blossoming amidst the giants. Developed by Moon Studios under Microsoft Games Studios, Ori And The Blind Forest soon became one of the talking points of the show with its captivating graphic style. However any seasoned gamer could tell you that looks aren’t everything and that both style and substance are indispensable with regards to quality games. Is Ori And The Blind Forest a prize bloom or lost amongst the weeds?

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Within the vast forest of Nibel, a small mysterious creature named Ori comes into the world. Happened upon by chance by the benevolent Naru, Ori is taken in and lives a simple but happy life in Naru’s company. However, within the workings of the great forest, all is not well. The land’s beauty begins to fade and shrivel away, and Ori is compelled by a strange and ancient presence to venture deep within the hidden corners of the forest to restore its splendor and save everything that he knows before its brilliance disappears. As Ori leaves the comfort of his old home behind, the shadow of the fearsome and enigmatic Kuro looms over the trees; one who would see the light extinguished forever.

Ori And The Blind Forest is a 2D platformer game with exploration in the style of “metroidvania” games in which the player must traverse a variety of challenging landscapes and as they uncover new abilities and movement options new areas and hidden secrets become accessible. There is also an RPG-esque leveling system that allows players to augment Ori’s combat abilities, exploration methods, and endurance with experience that accumulates from defeating foes or finding hidden boosts tucked away within the different areas. Ori’s adventure is concise and focused without feeling restrictive or railroad-y, taking about 10 hours to complete.

Of all of the things that would draw a player into the experience, the stunning visuals are the main hook. Absolutely magnificent and wondrous to behold, Ori And The Blind Forest may be the most gorgeous game I have ever beheld. Every single moment of the game radiates an incredible sense of beauty and magic; each environment is painted lavishly to have character and visual punch in every aspect. In an era of modern games with heavy emphasis on hyper-realism and graphic fidelity, the painterly look and fantastically rendered world fills a space that was dearly lacking. It is difficult to put to words how unbelievably beautiful the scenery is, so here, have a look for yourself:

Adding to the brilliance of the experience is the wonderful sound design. The majestic and haunting score hits all the right notes at the right moments and is as much a part of the soul of the game as the exquisite visuals. The sound effects of all the different facets of the environments and characters fits perfectly and makes it as much a treat for the ears as for the eyes.

Aesthetics notwithstanding, Ori is a winner in the gameplay department as well. While there’s little that hasn’t been done before in similar platformer-exploration games, Ori And The Blind Forest delivers solidly on its conventions and melds all of its mechanics elegantly. Ori handles well; his movement is natural and responsive making the platforming element of gameplay–which is the core of the experience–a solid foundation demanding just the right amount of planning, reflexes, dexterity, and timing to feel difficult enough to provide a sense of exhilaration and accomplishment but surmountable enough to keep the game’s pace flowing and provide the simple pleasure and sensation of continuous movement. The sense of progression as the player acquires new abilities feels just right, introducing new methods of movement at regular intervals that allow Ori access to previously unreachable areas and offer new approaches to navigating previous sections. Each addition lets you view retreaded segments in a fresh perspective, as dangerous areas become trivial to speed through and enemies become tools for moving around in clever ways. Puzzle elements comprise another large part of Ori’s adventure and are done well, encouraging thoughtfulness and use of Ori’s capabilities in unorthodox ways without being too obtuse. The game is undeniably challenging but rarely punishing due to Ori’s Soul Link ability which allows the player to save the game at virtually any time, allowing instant retries to particularly tricky sections of traversal or combat; there’s no “game over.” During my playthrough I accumulated nearly 230 deaths but never once did I feel like I skipped a beat.

On top of everything else, Ori And The Blind Forest also has a fantastic story woven throughout the game. A simple but powerful, moving narrative of love and sacrifice underlies Ori’s adventure that will strum at your heartstrings as it unfolds through the gorgeous sights and sounds. The plot is mostly storybook affair, but rather than reducing to a simple struggle between light and darkness Ori’s tale rides on some meaningful themes and at times is deeply touching.

There is very little to complain about as far as stumbling points, but at a few times throughout the game the difficulty suddenly seems to jump dramatically and will demand of you one-perfect-run for a lengthy gauntlet of hazards. If there was one feature I would have wished for, it would have been a way to teleport to waypoints across the fairly vast world instead of having to navigate all the way through the areas again to retread for previously inaccessible pickups. There are a few imperfections on the technical side, but they occur so infrequently that they are forgivable. There is very occasional slowdown on the Xbox One version of the game during intense action with lots of particle effects, but almost never in a way that affects the flow of the gameplay or jolts you into fumbling a precise series of maneuvers.

If there was ever a decisive piece of evidence for the games-as-art argument, it is this one. Beautiful in both visuals and play, it can be confused for nothing else but a work of art, and a superb one at that. Every aspect comes together to form a truly amazing game that you never knew you needed until it is in your hands. For the modest asking price of $20, Ori And The Blind Forest is an experience that simply cannot be missed.





Review: Evolve

16 02 2015

From the studio that spawned the Left 4 Dead games comes a new unique breed of FPS shooter aiming to establish itself as a new order in the game kingdom of team-based competitive game where either side is evenly matched, but couldn’t be more different. Will this genetic anomaly be a chapter or a footnote in the xenobiology books?

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The tale of Evolve’s world is played out in deadly confrontations across various sites of the lush but savage planet of Shear, where a few outposts of humanity have emerged to attempt to colonize and tame the new frontier in hopes of establishing a new home for our species. However, the planet is teeming with hostile wildlife and “megafauna” including giant alien super-predators that stalk the crags, swamps, and forests. A crack team of hunters from all corners of the galaxy is dispatched as a countermeasure to combat the threat of these monsters in a bid for control and survival in the unforgiving wilds of Shear.

Evolve is a multiplayer-focused asymmetrical online FPS game. One team of 4 players assume the roles of the hunters, comprised of different roles and specialties that must work together as a cohesive unit against the 5th player, who controls one of the massively powerful monsters in a scenario-based match played in a vast level strewn with vegetation, bizarre wildlife, and monolithic remnants of colonist construction projects. At the onset of each game, the monster is a underdeveloped juvenile, and must evade the team of hunters as it feasts upon prey animals and grows ever-stronger, eventually reaching its full strength and becoming a force of nature that can devastate its enemies within seconds. The hunters and the monster must outmaneuver each other amidst the rocky caverns and vegetation of the expansive maps in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse where the tables can turn at any moment and the line between predator and prey is thin and blurred.

The hunter characters are divided into 4 different classes: Medic, Trapper, Support, and Assault. Each specializes in a different method of combating the monster and has a specific role to fulfill towards their team’s success. Medics dispense healing and keep the team on their feet, and have several other useful tools like tranquilizer guns to sedate the monster and slow its movement. Trappers are integral to containing the monster and prevent it from fleeing a losing battle with their various tracking equipment and harpoon guns. Support is a flexible class that brings an assortment of useful tools to the table, ranging from group cloaking devices, calling in orbital bombardments, to shielding units that can protect teammates from harm. Finally, the Assault class is the front-line fighter that devotes itself solely to dealing heavy damage to the monster to bring it down with excessive firepower. Within the 4 roles, there are 3 different characters per class that each go about their job in a different way and offer some variety to the playstyles and strengths of the class.

Players can choose from 3 different hulking monsters when playing the opposition, each with a different style of play and methodology. The brutish Goliath is an unstoppable juggernaut that relies on its tremendous strength and unwavering toughness to pound the hunters to a pulp, whether it engulfs them with a stream of clinging flame, tears boulders from the ground to fling like a catapult, or simply throws the destructive weight of its bulk crashing into its enemies. The sinister Kraken prefers to fight from afar, bombarding its foes with blasts and bolts of bio-electricity as it hovers aloft like an angry thunder-god, drifting across battlefields with the malicious presence of a boiling storm cloud. Lastly the slippery Wraith rewards stealth and subterfuge as it slithers through the terrain, with its strange warping abilities to use misdirection and its evasiveness to lure hunters into deadly ambushes at the hands of its reaper-like rending talons. Playing as the monster is certainly the most unique and fresh aspect of Evolve, and there’s something primal and satisfying about controlling one of these dread monstrosities that speaks to the soul’s hunger for destruction; the bestial id within that lurks in the darkness of the heart of the player, straining against its cage.

Playing Evolve is a tight and engaging experience that is focused and expertly crafted. The 15 to 20 minute matches are tense and well-paced where lulls in activity foster a sense of dread and the sudden explosion of violence from a run-in with the monster provides a hot, frantic rush of adrenaline. Playing as the monster manages to provide both a sense of progression and a driving immediacy and the solitude of being pitted against 4 other players but still on level playing ground makes you feel both vulnerable and addictively powerful at the same time. There is a slight learning curve to get acclimated to the various tricks and trades of both the monster and hunters that is satisfying to climb and has a sweet-spot balance of depth and intuitive aspects and the diversity of the ability interactions as well as the composition of the various maps presents lots of opportunities for counter-play and outwitting the enemy. The glory of victory is distinctly different whether singlehandedly overpowering your foes as the monster or conquering your quarry with teamwork and synergy as the hunters.

Visually and aurally, the game also shines. The verdant groves and twisting canyons of Shear are as captivating as they are dangerous, with strange alien growths and otherworldly vegetation and mineral formations that crack and shatter against the hide of a rampaging creature or a roaring torrent of high-tech gunfire. The hunters all have personality and simple but pleasing designs, but the monsters are where the game really flexes its visuals. Tooth and nail, spur and scale, the creature cast is fearsome and awesome to behold as they skulk, pounce, and eviscerate with their jagged teeth, undulating tentacles, and tree-snapping tails in tow. The games’ minimal HUD and visual language are concise and unintrusive, never dulling the feast for the eyes but conveying just the important pieces of information. The hunters’ banter, the report of the futuristic weapons, and the gurgling hisses of the creatures all meld together as a visceral treat for the ears.

For all of Evolve’s strong points, there are a few points of contention. Most notably the content seems sparse especially for players just getting their hands wet. Upon initially launching the game, only 1 hunter of each class and 1 monster is available for use and the others must be unlocked by fulfilling various requirements for the characters/creatures preceding the next. While this is probably meant to be a device to get new players well-versed in basic concepts and core aspects of gameplay using the more straightforward characters, it forces players to “grind” and have several repeated runs with the starter selection in order to unlock options to experiment with. Secondly there is already a bevy of additional content for purchase and the aggressive DLC focus is a bit troubling; there is already nearly $87 worth of add-ons available for purchase within the first week of the game’s launch. Granted most of these extras are cosmetic, but with 2 new monsters and 6 new hunters supposedly on the way, with the currently announced pricing there is forseeably $75 worth of gameplay-relevant content alone in the future. Such a high asking price for add-ons is somewhat unprecedented even in this current generation in which DLC has been embraced as commonplace, and there has already been considerable backlash regarding this game’s content release schedule.

Despite a few concerns, Evolve has a great many strengths that send it towards the upper end of the food chain. While it may not be the perfect organism, it represents an interesting mutation of a oft-retreaded genre and a fascinating new experience that stands on its own feet (tentacles?) amidst a fiercely competitive wilderness of FPS games as an evolutionary success. In a land of devour-or-be-devoured, Evolve emerges as a top predator in my bestiary.





2014 Top 10 Gaming Favorites

7 01 2015

2014 was a pretty fantastic year for games, and as we are just over the horizon of 2015, it’s time to reflect back on the highlights of the recent past. Of the games I got around to play, these are my top 10 of 2014 in no particular order:

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Mario Kart 8

It’s a law of nature that a new Nintendo console brings a new Mario Kart game. Following suit to its predecessors, Mario Kart 8 brings the familiar easy-access racing gameplay with a colorful cast of characters and a fantastic collection of courses, both old and new, along with brilliant HD visuals. There was a merciful de-emphasis on the wacky powerful items in this entry of the series in favor of more focused racing gameplay and utilization of the courses and obstacles to get the edge on your competition. If there’s one sour note it’s that the battle mode is dreadfully uninspired where the battlegrounds are comprised of smaller loops of the normal courses than interesting free-roaming arenas. Other than that, Mario Kart 8 is a hit and a solid addition to the Wii U’s swelling ranks.

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Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

Players take up the sword, bow, and dagger of Talion, a Ranger of The Black Gate in an era of Middle-Earth where Gondor occupied the outskirts of Mordor, filling the transition between the events of The Hobbit and The Fellowship Of The Ring. The gameplay is a mix of the Batman Arkham games and Assassin’s Creed in which players have multiple approaches to various situations, and any way you decide to engage your enemies is satisfying to execute. The real compelling hook of the game is the “Nemesis System” in which the various Orcs and Uruks remember their prior encounters with you and progress through their own ranks and society based on the outcomes of their meetings with you, maybe even turning to your side and becoming a powerful Warchief. Will you break down the walls of Mordor, or poison it from within?

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Alien: Isolation

It seems like a curse that the Aliens franchise can’t seem to get a decent game based on it. Depending on how you think about it, The Creative Assembly’s new vision and direction for the franchise in Alien: Isolation either breaks or circumvents this curse by theming their game after the first Alien movie rather than it’s successor, in the form of a survival-horror game where the player must defeat the eponymous beast with fast-thinking, cunning, and stealth rather than with blazing guns. Players assume the role of Ellen Ripley’s daughter Amanda Ripley as she relives her mother’s nightmarish escape from a gigantic space station, bridging the fictional gap between the first and second movies. Stark and terrifying, Isolation brings a new approach to the beloved franchise, harkening back to its roots in the first movie as a high-adrenaline horror experience.

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Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

Blizzard’s venture into casual games shows that they can work their magic in any medium. Simple and easy-to-play but with compelling depth and challenge, Hearthstone is a resounding success in bringing the traditional card-game format to a digital platform in a unique but familiar way. Addiction-prone individuals beware.

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Titanfall

No, I’m not just plugging my studio’s own game. Titanfall stands up against fierce competition as a next-gen entry into the FPS genre and ushers in a new era of the “mobility shooter” with its dynamic movement and frenetic pace. It preserves the best parts of traditional shooter gameplay while integrating new concepts in an intuitive way to present a fresh but intuitive experience that is unlike any other. Whether you’re bounding through alleyways and across rooftops as a fleet-footed Pilot or smothering foes with relentless volleys of heavy weaponry as a massive armored Titan, Titanfall is always a great time.

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Shovel Knight

A quaint but masterfully-done throwback to the days of 8/16 bit platformers, Shovel Knight overflows with personality and excellent design. Playing through Shovel Knight is like rediscovering your old favorite NES game that you forgot had even existed.

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Hyrule Warriors

Tecmo’s melding of the Zelda universe with the gameplay of Dynasty Warriors stirred up some skepticism, but once it’s in your hands it is undoubtedly an experience worth having. Something like the “Avengers” movie of the Zelda franchise, it draws from characters and worlds from across the history of the series and puts them all in your control as you wipe out enemies by the hundred. It hits the right chords of fond nostalgia while at the same time presenting exciting re-inventions of classic characters and villains. Fairly mindless, but unquestionably fun.

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Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS

The new generation of Smash Bros. has arrived on Nintendo’s consoles and it was well worth the wait. Like a medley of the best aspects of games past, I feel that this new entry in the series has found the sweet spot between highly-competitive and casual play, with the presentation to back it all up. A fantastic cast of characters including honored guests like Mega Man and Pac-Man battle it out in the first true-HD entry in the series, and it plays as smooth and beautifully as it looks. There are many new subtle aspects and features which are uninstrusive and subtle but make available to the player a rich selection of options and customization that make it the most ambitious Smash game to date. With its new inclusions and solid construction, the new Smash Bros. is just about everything I had hoped for.

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Bayonetta 2

This is the best pure-action game I have ever played. And I’ve played a hell of a lot so that’s a pretty high mark. Bayonetta 2 is exactly the sequel that you wanted if you enjoyed the first entry in the series, which handles just like you would expect and introduces just enough new things to keep you rolling forward, obliterating legion after legion of angels and demons. Bayonetta 2 is a “pure-action game;” it doesn’t quite have the scope and majesty of something like God of War, or the creative puzzle-solving and sense of wonder of something like Shadow of The Colossus; there’s little else to do but fight. But you’ll be kicking major ass almost every step of the way from the corners of Inferno to Paradiso, having a hell of a time and looking damn good while doing it. Another gold (pure-platinum?) star for Platinum Games.

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Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-

The Guilty Gear series has had long-running status as a revered property amongst fighting game fans, but went without a proper true sequel for a long time, even since the days of Playstation 2. Guilty Gear Xrd heralds the arrival of a new era for the game, with a completely overhauled 3D engine built from the ground up but retaining the lightning-fast action and deep system and character mechanics that the series is known for. Although the cast is sparse in this first showing, there will undoubtedly be updates and revisions that bring back old favorites as well as flashy newcomers. A beautiful rebirth for a legendary franchise. Let’s rock.





Name Dropped In Game Industry Article About Respawn Entertainment And Santa Monica Studio

18 12 2014

http://www.dualshockers.com/2014/12/16/sony-santa-monicas-lead-concept-artist-joins-respawn-titanfalls-studio-now-has-18-devs-from-ssm/

It is still always very surreal to see my name show up in places where I didn’t personally write it, particularly when stumbling across instances from sources close to my professional/personal interests. I’ve been doing the games thing for almost 6 years now so it is kind of cool to be a living part of a shifting industry that someone finds worth monitoring and taking notice of.

Of course, the article is actually primarily about Jung Park, our amazing new artist that has come aboard who I also have had the opportunity to meet and work with twice in the past on God of War III and God of War: Ascension, and he joins many familiar faces here at Respawn that came over from Sony Santa Monica. What the real take away of the article for me was is a kind of truth I’ve come to recognize in the industry: That at the end of the day, teams are made of people. The credit and pedigree is not intrinsic to a branding, IP, or studio name but to the actual individuals and developers that pour their hearts and souls into their work, of all departments and disciplines. Over the course of time people come and go, and when we talk about how good or prestigious a given studio is, we’re really talking about a snapshot of a certain moment in time of all of the people that comprised that studio and what they were/are capable of. Given the mix of developers from many different backgrounds, I am really excited for whatever comes next at Respawn.

Speaking of showing up in places I didn’t expect, this reminded me of an anecdote from a little while ago where surreal took a turn for the creepy. Check this out:

http://www.mobygames.com/developer/sheet/view/developerId,433087/

Moby Games is something like an IMDB for the game industry. I do not know who operates or curates it, and I had no knowledge of my own page until last year (2013). What’s more, check out the accompanying photo that is on my Moby Games page:

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This image is from the behind-the-scenes bonus footage on disc for God of War III in 2009. I did not provide this image. This means that somebody took the time and trouble to play through the bonus footage, capture a still of me during this excerpt presumably with some kind of capture hardware/software from PS3 to the computer, crop it, upload it, and submit it to this page before even I was aware of its existence.

Whoever you are that did all this, I admire your dedication from a respectful distance. (I’m just joking, it was just kind of weird to see a profile page for me that I had no hand in creating)





Cards Against Humanity 90s Nostalgia Pack Full Spoiler

22 05 2014

A 30 card mini-expansion was recently released on the online Cards Against Humanity store, dedicated to the 10 retrospectively awkward years before the turn of the millenium. Rifling through these additions you may in quick succession experience a rush of nostalgic familiarity, followed by a sting of realization that you are not as young as you used to be, followed by a twinge of shame/regret. Enjoy.

GO TO PAGE 2 FOR THE FULL SPOILER. WARNING: NSFW (duh)





Cards Against Humanity Bigger Blacker Box Expansion Full Spoiler

23 11 2013

If you are a devout CAH collector then you’ve probably already encountered the problem of storage using all these cards. And it is a big problem. Big problems need bigger solutions, and fortunately there is a solution to this conundrum in the form of the “The bigger, blacker box,” the proprietary and official box of holding from the CAH team.

What you might not have known is that as an added bonus, the BBB comes with a very small packet containing the “Box Expansion,” featuring an assortment of box-themed white cards. The packet’s inclusion is mostly just a fun joke, as the individual entries are all box-centric and can be a bit rigid in their application or fall flat (durr hurr hurr). Still, they are a semi-official release and if not used in actual play, are still a trinket addition to the CAH legacy.

OCD completionist tendencies? Click on to see what’s in the box.

GO TO PAGE 2 FOR THE FULL SPOILER. WARNING: NSFW (duh)





Cards Against Humanity: Fourth Expansion Full Spoiler

23 11 2013

CAH is 4 for 4 for releasing yearly content updates, and I will drain this glass as a toast to this and many more like it in the future. I was gonna drain it anyway, but y’know.

The black cards are starting to sound similar to older ones but are still phrased well. The white cards feature the most promiscuity of any expansion set so far, but if you’re a CAH veteran, it’s not going to make you blush at this point.

It’s worth my $10 and I’d venture it’s gonna be worth yours too. Get the full spread on the next page.

GO TO PAGE 2 FOR THE FULL SPOILER. WARNING: NSFW (duh)





Battlefield 4 Beta Impressions

16 10 2013

Battlefield 4 is set to go live by the end of October but the beta has been running for about 2 weeks now, having just concluded last night. I got some extensive playtime in and have a few observations, comparisons, and comments on the new entry into the Battlefield series.

Overall match pacing and flow

Although they only were featuring the Shanghai map for the limited Beta, it was a very strong showing for the dynamics of map control and large scale battles to look forward to in BF4. The map seems to have been sized just right; big enough that there was a feel of scale and grandeur and multiple avenues of approach to every objective of the map but also small enough that players can relocate and engage even as infantry on foot. A major change is the increased emphasis on the vertical space on the map, namely high-rises and skyscrapers that provide excellent vision and movement advantages when controlled by a coordinated squad. A new game mode “Obliteration” was introduced which is very similar to one-flag-CTF, where there is a neutral bomb and multiple bomb sites on each team’s “side” of the map. The layout and design was such that players were always in on the action, but also had many different angles of attack to exploit.

The destructible environment was not as extensively integrated as I had expected; it is more or less on par with that of BF3 in that there are certain environmental objects that can be destroyed, and structures can collapse but they are treated as events that occur rather than emergent/procedural breakdown due to structural damage. The massive skyscraper crashing down into the middle of the level is an impressive spectacle, but it collapses in the same canned way every single time.

If there is one complaint that I have it is to the changes in the melee knife system: a single hit will still kill an opponent approached from behind with a satisfying grab-n-stab animation, but if you attempt to use this from an opponents front, they have an opportunity to perform a reversal which will kill you instantly instead. This reversal consists of a one-key prompt and seems exceedingly easy to do; not a single time that I tried to initiate a knife move to an opponent’s front resulted in me killing them, the tables were turned 100 percent of the time. This feature needs to be reconsidered and polished.

Class changes, rebalancing and unlock progression

The same 4 core classes that were in BF3 make their return in BF4, but with a few notable differences that change the dynamic of play. The assault class’s defibrillator has been toned down; it now has a finite amount of uses per spawn and it is an unlock, albeit an early unlock. The assault class’s weaponry seems to have been improved as a tradeoff with some of the best firepower available, especially the SCAR-H assault rifle. The engineer class remains highly useful and effective, featuring an improvement to the basic RPG that allows it to lock on and home on enemy vehicles when it is laser designated by another device. The support class had perhaps one of the most substantial improvements of all in the form of a new default gadget the XM25 Airburst-grenade launcher. This clip-fed semi-automatic launcher can set a distance to explode via its scope mechanism that lets the airbursts damage targets behind cover or out of sight behind ledges, and is a very effective tool for flushing opponents out of cover. Additionally, the XM25 can deal moderate damage to vehicles if an entire clip is expended to hit the vehicle with direct shots. The recon class had a few substantial changes, namely that they are now able to carry C4 as a gadget as in BF2, making them once again able to deal with vehicles effectively, and also featuring variable-zoom scopes as early unlocks on their sniper rifles. Additionally, sniper rifle scopes can now be “zeroed” to compensate for the dropoff when shooting across extreme distances.

Given that all classes now have an effective method to combat vehicles, infantry is much more relevant during BF4 matches which is a refreshing adjustment. There is no longer a feeling of complete helplessness when an enemy tank smashes through a nearby wall raining machine gun fire. This is not to say that vehicles are less effective or valuable, but simply that they must be used more carefully and rely on infantry support as well.

Each class also has a weapon category unlock which enables all other classes to use that class of weapons once it is obtained. For example, the engineer class unlocks carbines which can then be used with any class thereafter, opening up the interesting tactical possibilities in loadouts. A support class with a DMR? An assault class with a semi-auto shotgun? There will undoubtedly be many interesting combinations to explore when the full game launches.

Matchmaking system

One small but immensely helpful inclusion is a feature that automatically tries to put you together in a squad with your friend when it detects that you have joined a server with a registered Battlelog friend. In the past it was a huge headache to even attempt to get on the same team as another friend in the same server due to arbitrary autobalancing, but in the BF4 Beta there was not a single match where I was forced to wait to join into my friend’s squad; rather every single time we played the game automatically saw to it that we would be placed in the same squad upon connecting to the match! While this may give rise to the occasional team imbalance, it is an incredible convenience and a huge boost to the experience of the game considering that BF has always been best when playing with your friends in a squad.

Battlefield 4 is looking to be a real winner when it comes out in late October. I am very intrigued to see the variety of maps and weaponry that will be included in the full game and look forward to being able to connect, play, and dominate alongside my squadmates more easily than ever before.