Ben X

The Big FPS Playthrough CURRENT GAME: Wolfenstein: The New Order (2014)

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I played BI in a stoned haze when it came out and it was kind of the perfect game for that as it just led you by the nose everywhere. That said I still resented it for that. I remember rolling my eyes at the story and having some bigger problems with it (which we've all heard before). I felt really disappointed at the cut enemies and the loot ratting felt really tedious.

Umm I also really disliked that the better weapons and enemies by the end were just.. red? They didn't seem to do much new, you saw more uncle sam robots but.. eh?

I played it and felt very tired at the multiverse thing, it made the mistake a lot of interesting b movie sci fi does where it picks a point to remove every layer of mystery for a heavy handed explanation along with a "now This is where you Feel" moment.

I don't think I felt like I ever really played a combat differently after a point, just a constant cycle of rinse and repeat that felt unfun.

A few modern shooters I call amazing also have that problem in parts but they usually make up for it elsewhere.

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In case you're looking for stuff to add to the list, you might wanna give RPS' newly-published 50 Best PC FPS list a scroll-thru. It's good for finding stuff you might've missed, even though I'd say it's way too broad. Alien Isolation, Prey, and Dishonored are great games tho I'd never describe them as FPSes. Shooting stuff or engaging in ranged combat is like 5% of what you do in those games. Also, including Shadow Warrior 2 instead of Shadow Warrior 1 is just wrong.

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That's actually a re-post with around three new entries (I may even have posted the original in here somewhere! Also, I'm not looking for new stuff because this is a backlog-buster first and foremost. Thank you though :)

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In other news, Unreal Gold is free on Steam and GOG for the next half day ish.

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On 5/22/2018 at 2:01 PM, Henke said:

In case you're looking for stuff to add to the list, you might wanna give RPS' newly-published 50 Best PC FPS list a scroll-thru. It's good for finding stuff you might've missed, even though I'd say it's way too broad. Alien Isolation, Prey, and Dishonored are great games tho I'd never describe them as FPSes. Shooting stuff or engaging in ranged combat is like 5% of what you do in those games. Also, including Shadow Warrior 2 instead of Shadow Warrior 1 is just wrong.

That is a bizarre list, at least they put S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl third. Half-Life 2 at second place is baffling to me as that game doesn't hold up well at all. Far weirder picks elsewhere though.

 

Lists...

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RPS make highly subjective lists, they're not really to be considered proper "Best Ever" lists. Disagree with you on HL2 though.

 

I'm putting Blood Dragon aside at least for the moment. I just got to a bit where I have to wait for a slow elevator while running circles in a small room to dodge a dragon, then a turret sequence, then I have to drive a car through a series of tight corridors. I died getting shot at in the car while trying to do a three-point turn, and now I have to do the whole sequence over again.

 

I might go back to it, but honestly probably not. I'm on the same page as Tycho here:

 

 

 

There's some discussion that follows on from there. My one word for it would be 'muddy'. Just a big icon-filled map with some muddy objectives and muddy shooting, and a muddy aesthetic. The humour gets pretty worn after a short while, too - it's essentially Duke Nukem Forever.

 

So, onto Call Of Juarez: Gunslinger. I hear good stuff about this, but I didn't love the first two (19th century-set) installments so I'm keeping my expectations low.

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The storytelling and presentation is certainly fun - you're a bounty hunter telling tall tales to a group of saloon patrons, playing through them as you go. New pathways drop out of the sky, enemies change when you're challenged on the historical facts, and sometimes you'll die in an extravagant action-movie moment only for your narration to clarify that's what would have happened if you'd taken the wrong route, and a quick rewind to plonk you further back in the level with a new pathway appearing. The only issue I have with it really is that it can overshadow and break up the gameplay a little - it'd be nice if I could just get a long level to shoot through occasionally.

 

There's a bunch of energetic editing razzmatazz too, with all the character name-slamming, split-screening, illustration-overlaying freeze-frames you could wish for. It has a kind of Borderlandsy feel to it, especially with a slight tinge of cell-shading and bloom to the in-game aesthetics. AS per usual for a CoJ game, it looks nice enough without really blowing you away.

 

The gunplay generally feels good, too. The old concentration mode is here and still fun, though perhaps not as generous as I'd like. A judicious use of that, cover and dynamite creates some great Western shootouts, especially with AI that hits a good balance between taking cover and getting reckless. It can sometimes feel a little fiddly, and the boss fights have been uniformly irritating so far, but overall it's really solid.

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I liked Gunslinger a lot. Mostly I thought it was very pretty and the guns felt very good. The fun little narration gimmick didn't hurt, either. The duel mechanic always felt a little wonky to me and maybe a couple levels were a little too tough and a few others were a little less inspired, but in general I think it's a really good FPS. I do think there are a dearth of really great Western FPS games which is ridiculous because that's one of the few settings where you'd think "shooting lots and lots of people" is a sensible sort of story to tell.

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I'm on the final level already, apparently. The levelling system only just recently kicked the game up a notch!  A bit of a shame really - it's one of those RPG-lite systems that, rather than create a few different play experiences, only really lets you enjoy the game for the second half and also forces you to level up stuff you don't care about in order to get to useful skills. Still, I'm really enjoying it for the most part - using all the little special powers in the right combination is really satisfying, and they have some cool levels like the steamer wreck half-sunk in a swamp, the tilted town or the turret sequence on a train-heist gone wrong where you rack up kills in slow-motion as burning dollar bills float past you. The narrative gags are still fun, too (though I'm not sure whether it's supposed to be blindingly obvious that Ben in the present-day saloon is the guy I've been looking for all through the flashbacks).

 

There's a game+ mode, and I don't normally go for those but it might be fun to blast through the levels again with superpowers, as long as I don't have to stop every minute or so for the story again.

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I finished the game. Unfortunately, the last section was a let-down, with an arena shootout with a bunch of ghosts then a two-way showdown. Considering this game works best when using a mix of cover and timing, and the showdown mechanics are frustrating as hell, this was not a good end section. Then it's revealed that Ben is actually Bob and you get a choice whether to kill him or not ("Revenge" or "Redemption"). I chose redemption, and it turns out that the young boy who's been listening to your story is Dwight Eisenhower and I tell him not to give into vengeance and bloodlust. Looking at a video of the Revenge choice: you get a showdown (a good reason in itself to choose peace) with Bob, you kill him, and the Dwight reveal is made - this time he leaves without learning a wholesome lesson. I'll let the historians here discuss which universe we're in.

 

Game+ lets you play through again with all your gained skills and allows you to keep building them up, but does force you to stop for all the story bits. There's an arcade mode that lets you play through some of the levels, but starting off vanilla again, which wasn't that fun (also @Laco has insanely good high scores that I'll never beat!).

So no perfect option, but I played almost the entire game again in game+ so I guess that's a good indicator of how enjoyable it is overall. It's telling that it takes two whole playthroughs to get completely levelled up, though, and even then I didn't feel like I'd had enough chances to use all my new stuff. The game could have done with racking XP up a lot sooner and then having a couple more towns to work through without lots of narrative interruptions near the end. I never got to throw someone's dynamite back at them! Still, despite a few that and a few other small issues (unusually for an FPS, the shotgun is pretty much useless and I barely touched it; boss fights are never fun), it's overall very satisfying to play and the storytelling has a lot of flair. Aside from more showy stuff like a spinning time-lapse sky or weather and vegetation changing with the narration as you walk through them, it also has some great atmosphere. Silas sings a song about death at one point as you walk through a valley; rain and lightning starts up and then a giant landslide tumbles past you, held in a freeze-frame as the level ends; the abandoned town falling apart and sunken at angles deep into the mud also acts as a nice reflection of Silas becoming a husk of a man, still seeking revenge while the 20th century rolls on and he gets ever older and more irrelevant, cars buzzing past him in the street and enemies wondering who the hell this old coot is.

 

An accurate RPS review (which mentions this was released at a surprisingly low £12 price point)

Forum thread

Discussion in Idle Thumbs 135 (from around 18 minutes in)

A couple of making-of videos, one from the writer and one more standard.

And now I can finally finish watching Noah Caldwell-Gervais' video essay on the CoJ series!

 

So, it's onto Rise Of The Triad. However, I'm pretty sure that I somehow gained the original ROTT on one of my online libraries, so I'm going to try to hunt that down first. I have like ten of them, and I can't remember what they all are, so there's a chance I have, like, five games sitting somewhere that I will never get to play! While I'm looking, I'll keep an eye out for any FPSes I own but missed off this list.

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I wound up Gunslinger this along with you! I enjoyed it again, although it started to get a little samey towards the end and I totally agree about the end. Shooting ghosts in a very washed out level wasn't particularly easy or fun and the showdowns really grated by the end, they're very much designed for an analogue stick. All said though it's a fun shooter for a few hours.

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I'm glad you Gunslinger this with me! Yeah, the analogue stick thing is a good point, the mouse controls on those were horrible.

 

Okay, so actually I was probably thinking of Shadow Warrior not ROTT that I have both original and remake of. I'm going to go through all my online libraries anyway, just to see if I've missed anything. Let's see, Steam, GOG, Twitch, Amazon, Origin, Ubiplay, Humble... anywhere else?

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Well, I didn't find ROTT, but I did realise I need to add Shadow Warrior '97, Spec Ops The Line and Strafe to this list. Goddammit, it's the Golden Gate Bridge of backlog-busters!

 

I've found a fan Win7 port of the original ROTT shareware episode, which I got working with a bit of fiddling, so I'll play that first then move onto the reboot/remake/sequel/whatever it is.

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1 hour ago, Ben X said:

I'm glad you Gunslinger this with me!

Hah, I think I got caught between saying "I wound up playing this along with you!" and "I wound up playing Gunslinger along with you!" and saying neither.

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Well, I'm glad you were gunslingin' along with me in any case.

 

I gave ROTT '94 about five minutes, which isn't really a fair shake but it seems pretty awful. I remember being excited at that time because it had duel-wielded pistols and proper human enemies - this seemed like an even more hardcore game than DooMTM! It turns out it's a weird mix of edgy (downed enemies beg you not to execute them, the 'quit?' window says stuff like 'press Y to hang yourself') and really goofy (bounce-pads, jaunty Amiga platformer music, a magic power-up that lets you shoot what is basically the energy balls from Half-Life 2's citadel out of your hands). It's all a lot less good-looking and tightly-designed than DooMTM though, so I can't really be bothered. Onto the new one!

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Okay, I gave ROTT '13 a little longer, but beyond the nostalgia appeal of seeing the old vanity card get busted through by a nice crisp one, the ugly intro illustrations updated to a Dave Gibbons-esque motion comic, and the first level remade exactly, it's not that fun. Honestly, it feels like someone's bought an FPS creator on Unity and made an asset-flip game. I got a couple of chuckles from the silliness, such as eyeballs splatting onto your camera when you get a particularly gory kill, but the lack of any pacing or enemy AI or interesting level design made me unwilling to replay from an old checkpoint when I hit a bug where a gate won't open.

 

So onto old Shadow Warrior. I have the impression this is well thought of but I may not have the patience for old controls...

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I dunno how well thought of it is actually. I played Shadow Warrior back in the day and liked it, but it's nothing special. It's maybe the 3rd best Build engine game, with some racist jokes and a few good weapons.

 

If you want to play games from that era, I would recommend Blood instead. That's a classic, and by Monolith no less.

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Backlog-buster, eot! Backlog-buster!

 

But glad to hear it's not a revered classic, I won't feel too bad giving up on it within five minutes! I think the new one was well-liked, though?

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I finally got my key layout comfortable again (arrow keys for movement, "," and "." for strafing, "/" for fire), even though I still can't figure out how the inventory works, and I'm quite enjoying this. Now I've put it on easy and turned (vertical only?) auto-aim on, I can enjoy the more puzzley elements (finding the controls for a remote control car that has a key on it so I can drive it within reach, getting the power going so I can drill a new passageway into the floor) and the atmosphere (car alarms that go off if you jump on them, hitting gongs to open doors, rabbits leaping around gardens). The attention to detail definitely calls Duke Nukem 3D to mind. Speaking of which, there are a lot of racial stereotypes and some incongruous nude manga babes in there, but it mainly hits the knowing Big Trouble In Little China vibe.

 

I'm stuck on a death-trap lowering-ceiling room at the moment, and I'm not sure if I can be bothered to find out how to get past it - as much as they dress it up, the old-school 'navigate huge map, find coloured door keys' set up is a bit wearing without DooMTM's excellent combat and level design.

 

EDIT: ehh, so there was a small gearbox in the wall that I had to spot from a certain angle through the gates that came down, then shoot. The next thing after that is a button puzzle, so I'm probably going to give up on this out of principle rather than get out a pen and paper and try to figure this thing out.

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Yeah, gave up on that and moved onto Shadow Warrior 2013.

 

So far, this is really good! The fidelity isn't AAA but the strong visual design compensates for that - bright open spaces filled with cherry blossoms, leaping fish and hopping bunnies. If it's a little cliched, they at lampshade it with a comment from Lo Wang.

 

Speaknig of whom, they've de-aged the protagonist, so his quipping feels more appropriate than with the bald, white-bearded Pai Mei type of the original - here he's an ambitious and abrasive young man, introduced speeding his sports car through the hills of Japan, singing along to The Touch and lighting a cigarette. (Unfortunately, they replaced the original caucasian actor with another, and indeed the entire voice cast seems to be a whitewash.) They've also given him a sassy demon sidekick, who's really fun in a Ryuk from Deathnote kind of way.

 

I groaned when I realised that there would be an emphasis on sword combat, but it's actually really fun so far - you can generally hack your way through enemies pretty easily, slicing them into pieces in an OTT update of the original's gory kills, you're given a heal move very early and the special sword moves are simple to pull off so far. I'm finding it a lot more accessible than the saber mechanics in the Jedi Knight games. I also groaned when I realised that it's got an RPG-lite leveling system, which means I'll be scrabbling round for money in every drawer I can see. It seems pretty generous, though, and is closer to Gunslinger's arcadey flair-rewarding set-up than, say, Bioshock Infinite.

 

My only niggle so far really is that the demon enemies are too skinny - they feel more like DOOM '16's imps than the bulky Goro types from the original. It compromises the Big Trouble In Little China feel that this game otherwise very successfully carries over from the '97 version.

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I'm about halfway through this now and still enjoying it. It's progressing nicely, with better weapons to match the bigger demons that are coming in. It all feels very DOOM '16, actually - a lot of arena fights where you have to use certain moves to get health back, you use demon hearts as weapons and there are big plinths of gore and bones sticking out of the floor that you pull stuff from. There was even a Hell ("Shadow Realm") level where you had to run round a big circular arena and shoot the shiny bits off a massive lumbering demon, but that might be more DooM3 now I think about it. Anyway, you can really see the pattern of arcadey style-rewarding wave-shooting in this and Gunslinger, which I guess may have been started by Bulletstorm, and which DOOM got a lot of credit for adopting.

 

Small complaints are that it's often too tricky to swap between guns and sword, and thereby fully strategise when dealing with a collection of big and small demons, and also that it's unclear how to get higher karma rewards for stylish or unusual kills. I might look that up before I get back to it, actually...

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To Shadow Warrior? Yeah, I really enjoyed it - I think it really worked well with his youthification and the pleasingly specific archetype of 'young, ambitious Westernised Japanese man who doesn't believe in all this stuffy tradition and supernatural nonsense', and it was also cool to see a lot of effort go into such a light-hearted scene - licensing the track, doing some really good 'singing along' lip syncing, a ton of custom backgrounds and props etc.

 

The writing in general is really fun, if not super-sophisticated. There are clever nods to the Hero With A Thousand Faces and some cute lampshading as well as some well-acted banter.

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I'm over two thirds through now and mostly still enjoying this. Some issues are growing, however: the variety in demons and special moves is starting to show; the boss fights range from dull (shoot the glowy bits!) to rather irritating (shoot the glowy bits on the back of something that charges at you really fast!); the environments have settled into typical FPS metal corridors; I'm getting pretty tired of scavenging for coins. Overall, it's that standard FPS problem where I'm in the end-game and I don't feel as powered up as I should. I'm still having enough minute to minute fun to keep slashing my way through, though.

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