Thursday, November 19, 2015

Gaming Impressions - Black Ops 3 & Fallout 4

I know there's a lot of conflicting opinions going around social media in relation to "Black Ops 3", and "Fallout 4". Some people think they are the greatest games ever to grace the new-gen consoles while others think they are steaming piles of sh*t not worth the deflating US dollar. I tend to have an opinion somewhere in the middle though, and for my own gathered reasons. In this article I'll briefly go over the pro's, and con's I've found with each game with said opinions included. Keep in mind I've played them only on the PS4, so my opinions are strictly in regards to those versions. I've also spent several hours with each game sampling most of, if not all of what the games had to offer. Fallout 4 being the only exception since it is a massive RPG. One which I am still far from completing.

When it comes to Black Ops 3 the term/phrase "SSDD (Same Sh*t Different Day)" doesn't really apply this time around. At least not in the sense that it used to. While it does continue to use some customization features from previous CoDs everything from the gameplay to the gun play have changed significantly. Even the story direction has changed. When it comes to the new plot, and associated twists the new CoD has taken on the most sci-fi story arch yet. It takes place in the not so distant future when cybernetics, and artificial intelligence are a common thing. Soldiers are literally brought back from the brink of death with applied physical augmentations making them less human than they were before. Towards the end of the campaign the player takes a trip through one such soldier's psyche into a nightmarish world that looks as if it has nothing to do with modern warfare. The game ultimately becomes a mind f**k, and leaves a lot of people wondering what the hell just happened. If anything this latest Call of Duty could be likened to psychological warfare as it keeps the player, and protagonist guessing what is real, and what is not throughout it's entirety.

The gameplay, on the other hand is a mixture of CoD, Destiny, and Titanfall. On the CoD side of things the military arcade style FPS action continues with the usual team based modes of play that can be enjoyed both offline, and online. This unfortunately gets mixed with the super system from Destiny, and the signature wall running from Titanfall to make one of the most unrealistic CoD games to date. To say they pushed the sci-fi envelope would be an understatement. Aside from modes like TDM, Domination, the Gun Game, and Ground Wars 'Black Ops 3' also brings with it a new zombies mode with a new take on the classic 4-player co-op experience of the same name. Out of all that the game offers the new zombies multiplayer which takes place in a fictional noir setting is by far the most interesting features of the game. It sticks to the older CoD formula without the wall running only adding some beastly character transformation effects for that extra special touch. The playable characters themselves are unique in that they are played by famous Hollywood actors, and actresses. That, and the fact that they follow the usual noire stereotypes such as that of a burlesque dancer, a magician, a boxer, and a detective. Ron Perlmen, and Jeff Goldblum are among the more noteworthy cast of characters this time around. The story, though as odd as the fictional setup of the core game has these four sinners paying their dues by facing off against hordes of the undead, and other ghoulish monstrosities. Their nightmare which was brought on by their own misdeeds, and through the conjuring of a shadowy figure makes for one of the scariest CoD zombies experiences to date.

As far as the pro's go 'Black Ops 3' has gained a perfected version of the emblem customization brought forth from the previous "Black Ops" titles. It is totally refined, offers more layers to play with than before as well as rare emblems that can be earned through the new Black Market crates. Not only that but there are special paint effects that can also be applied to parts of the weapons. Other noteworthy items come in the form of gun customization via the "Blacksmith". This new customization feature allows the player to craft the ultimate CoD firearm, and apply things like a custom paint job along with the multiple attachments. Customization options are definitely at their prime in this latest installment of the CoD series, and that's one of the reasons I kind of like it.

Coming to the con's I think you know what I'm about to say, but I'll say it anyways for the sake of saying it. Black Ops 3 still suffers from induced lag issues at the hands of cheaters, and modders. You would think with the dedicated servers included that the experience wouldn't be as bad as it is, but lag still plays a huge role as to whether you win or lose. This issue coupled with the odd gun play makes winning a truly trying task more often than not. Most of the problems I've encountered with gun play revolve around the fact that even if you squeeze off the first round/s into an onscreen opponent with an automatic gun they can still retaliate killing you off while you are still pumping hot lead into their bodies, and visa versa. This could be attributed to lag, but could also be attributed to unbalanced guns. Whatever the case you'll likely become as frustrated as I have when this happens as it is unfair. Other online disturbances that continue to plague the online experience include camping, hard scoping, and seemingly abused cheats such as the aimbot, and map location hacks/mods. CoD in this sense is definitely the "SSDD".

For as many pro's as it has 'Black Ops 3' has the same amount, or more of con's attached to it's online experience. Even the offline was dumbed down by the mash-up of mechanics that were introduced this time around. The only thing I really liked about the game was the story, and even that had it's A.I. related problems as CoD campaigns tend to do. The word "ironic" comes to mind. At the end of the day this game is gonna get a "Skip It!!!" rating since Activision, and Treyarch still do f**k all about the problems plaguing the series. Truth be told I seriously doubt they'll ever care enough to tackle the beast of a problem that is online cheating.

Fallout 4 ...

Now for my take on the more recent, and most highly debated game release this year, "Fallout 4". A critique from the lips of Dante, as it were. A critique that was unbiased from the start ... Whether you are about graphics, or not there is no denying that there are some underlying factors that make a game great. In the subjective sense these debatable things which include gameplay, graphics, and value each matter in their own ways. When it comes down to the graphics part of "Fallout 4", for example I personally think they fall under the new-gen category. The only exception being the character models that looked slightly primitive. Not retro, mind you, but "slightly" last-gen. The environments however were amazing, and textured in a way that brought the world to life! Even the weather effects added a certain element of new-gen realism into the mix. I loved traveling through the various locales while taking in the 360 degree view of the waste littered landscapes. There's always something new to see, and encounter as you traverse the land that has been drastically changed over the course of 200 years, and through a nuclear fallout. 

In the way of combat You can take to the fight in either a first-person perspective, or a third-person point of view. Each of which will change how you approach things in-game. Combat, like the rest of the game is layered by functions, and features that tie-in with your created protagonist's adopted stats (Strength, Endurance, ...). Along with these improvable stats which change your character's abilities, and capabilities you can also adapt to your surroundings, and survive for the long haul if you play wisely. During battle you can even use the game's VATs system to target specific parts of enemies so that you can kill them off easier with a combo ending critical hit. 

While combat itself is one of the most satisfying, and rewarding things that 'Fallout 4' has to offer the Sanctuary, gun, armor, and power armor customization options among other related things also help to extend the gameplay experience well beyond it's base quests, and side quests. I have personally spent several hours of my time making my Sanctuary (home base) livable for the faction I joined up with early on into my playthrough. This includes fortifying the property, making a proper water source, and even planting crops that are fit for human consumption. These tasks may seem tedious to some, but to me I was so drawn into customizing my character's setup, and his world that I literally lost track of time. It was fun building upon my own character, and seeing him develop as a survivor in the midst of one of the most unfathomable worldly circumstances imaginable.

Little things like the items you can collect on your outings, and the companions that can accompany your character on his/her journey make everything so much more delightful. As far as con's go the only thing that comes to mind is the often times awkward menu system, and deep seeded character management that is not so easy to grasp at the start. I found myself fumbling around trying to figure out how to change weapons for the longest after having been told how to do so via text dialogue not long before. Fallout 4 is one of those games that throws all of the mechanics at you in a short time's length, and expects you to remember it all once you emerge from the vault intro. I feel the gamer could have been eased into the game more gently, especially since the game is of the free roaming/open world nature. Once you do get the hang of things though the game becomes the enjoyable experience it was intended to be. Good graphics, or not this game has an undeniable fun factor that can be enjoyed for quite some time. If you are worried about getting your money's worth out of it I think you will. You simply have to look beyond the last-gen character facade, and and enjoy the many things the new Fallout wasteland has to offer. As far as bugs, and glitches go I've not encountered one yet, knock on wood.

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