Tag Archives: Counter-Strike

Do We Need To Rethink Solo Offline Game Modes?

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With Overwatch now out, the forward march of $60 games with only multiplayer continues. On the one hand, I don’t think every shooter should be forced to have a campaign with a story. On the other, I also think games like this ignore a lot of people who could potentially enjoy these games but don’t care about player versus player gameplay. Continue reading

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Valve Continually Ahead Of The Curve

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A bit of news today has been that of Steam hitting a record nine million concurrent users. Data on concurrent Xbox Live and PlayStation Network users is tough to find (I only know that XBL hit 2 million in 2009), but nine million is not an insignificant market, neither is 76 million active accounts.

What I’m interested in right now though is the event that actually pushed Steam to its new record. It’s something basically no other game platform is doing, and I wonder if Valve is charting the future again. Continue reading

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Why You Should Try NeoTokyo: Part Two

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I feel like I should do another post on NeoTokyo because my last one wasn’t really about why you should try the game but rather what it is. Here’s my best attempt at describing what the game feels like and what actually sets it apart.

A major thing about this game (and maybe all tactical shooters) is how it manages to be tense and fast-paced while also requiring careful and patient play. It’s not for the kind of people who like to run all over the place gathering kills, but rather people who try to carefully control the map to complete an objective, even if that objective is killing the other team. The reason it’s one of my favorite multiplayer shooters is because it’s built around that more strategic style of play.

Last time when I said NeoTokyo sometimes descends into team deahtmatch by nature of its lack of respawns, I really should have said that’s what happens at least half the time. The sole mode of the game is about capturing a cyber brain — called a “ghost,” but it’s really that and TDM at the same time, depending on the situation. The meta game that flows out from NeoTokyo’s unique mechanics is what does this.

Basically, each team can begin thinking about the first one or two steps of their strategy as soon as a round begins. The ghost spawns in a different place each round, inevitably putting it closer to one team than the other. More importantly, the location of the ghost (even when someone has it) and all capture points are visible to everyone from the beginning.

Say a round starts and the ghost appears to be pretty close to your team — you already know you’re going to get it first, and from there you can try to reach the capture point or defend the ghost until you’ve taken down the whole opposing team. Matches with low player counts change the game completely.

Years ago I remember playing a two-on-two match where the pace turned into something very unusual for shooters, but oddly believable for tactical combat. Basically, each round would start with each team immediately trying to find the other for a couple minutes, followed by about five seconds of gunfire before the round was over. I thought that more than anything else highlighted the rhythm of tactical combat.

What’s odd about that feeling is that NeoTokyo is supposed to be a futuristic game. You have a cloaking device and some players have motion vision, yet its combat feels more realistic than most modern military shooters. It’s definitely a unique combination.

Then you have the differences between classes. Each one has specific jobs and play styles, but they aren’t as immediately apparent as, say, Team Fortress 2’s classes. Recon players can bunny hop and run around so they usually end up with the ghost, plus it’s easier for them to reach roofs and hidden high-up locations. Support players on the other hand are better suited for camping to defend points since they can take a lot of damage, aren’t fast, and don’t have cloak.

I’ll go ahead and admit NeoTokyo definitely has a learning curve. The website has a decent tutorial for the basics and those same tutorial images appear on screen at the start of each round. Some control nuances however don’t become apparent until you either stumble into them or look at the key bindings. The meta game only really comes into view through communication with experienced players.

For a free and low-budget mod, I think NeoTokyo is a really tightly-designed and unique game. Hopefully it can find an audience the way Source mods like Day of Defeat and Zombie Panic did.

BULLETS:

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Why You Should Try NeoTokyo

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I was gonna blog about something else today — probably something decidedly American, but Steam blindsided me and finally decided to put one of my favorite lesser-known multiplayer shooters up for download. That game is NeoTokyo, something with a much more Japanese flavor.

Basically, this Source engine mod is Counter-Strike (or maybe Insurgency) meets Ghost in the Shell. It’s a very similar brand of round-based tactical shooter gameplay but with a heavy cyberpunk theme. It employs high lethality with no respawns (along with things like lean and ironsights) and is class-based. The game started out with a few maps back in 2009 but last year developer Studio Radi-8 upped the number to around 16.

Since its original release NeoTokyo has been free for owners of pretty much any of the Half-Life 2 games. I think it switched over to the standalone 2013 SDK base last year though so it might be totally free now. Problem is, the game’s servers have been dead for months. Ever since I saw the game show up on Greenlight I’ve hoped it would make it to the actual list of Steam games so it could get some real exposure.

Gameplay-wise the two main cyberpunk elements are the temporary stealth cloak which most players get, and the game’s main mode — capture the cyber brain. It’s pretty much capture the flag except the player who grabs the cyber brain can see everyone’s locations through walls in real time and is expected to relay that information to teammates. I’ve seen that completely change the pace of a battle.

Because of the high lethality and lack of respawns, people playing NeoTokyo pretty much automatically try to behave much more tactfully than they might in Call of Duty (it might just be people transplanting their CS skills). Also, rounds can very quickly turn into essentially team deathmatch since eliminating the opposing team also nets a win. This happens very often in games of 2-on-2 or less. Let me tell you, that’s been some of the most tense TDM I’ve experienced.

NeoTokyo’s classes are Recon, Assault, and Support, ranking in that order in progression from mobility to strength. Recon players get a long cloak, unlimited sprint, and night vision. Assault players get better armor and motion vision. Support players get the most armor and thermal vision, but no cloak. The game also employs an escalation system with its weapons.

There are some other interesting bits about the way this game plays. For instance, manually reloading before a clip is spent will actually throw away the remaining rounds in that clip. The game also advises players to consider surrounding lighting and surfaces when using the stealth cloak.

The biggest cyberpunk element of NeoTokyo is of course it’s art direction and overall theme. One of the best parts about the game is its soundtrack (iTunes link) which oddly almost never appears in the game at all. Part of the reason the game is free is probably because its maps are littered with licensed Japanese imagery like posters of anime and Japanese adult models. You’d think it would come off as looking like just another otaku game but in my opinion it works, likely because the game lifts primarily off of GitS and Akira as opposed to today’s “kawai” anime.

Oddly, NeoTokyo has managed to remain one of my central multiplayer shooters over the last couple years whenever I could actually find anyone to play it with. It’s been more strangely addicting to me than most AAA multiplayer games. I just hope the official Steam release resuscitates the servers.

BULLETS:

  • http://t.co/sz8i6ZhNhB The part of this article that really got me was the quote from Hiroshi Yamauchi and Miyamoto’s interpretation of it.
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The Search For Alternative Multiplayer Shooters

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Last time while going over how I felt about Titanfall I noted how it’s probably not gonna be my thing while also saying it has a good chance to be popular. I wasn’t being down on popular shooters so much as indicating how the multiplayer shooter industry seems to focus most of its energy on providing one type of game.

That type being the fast-paced deathmatch, domination, and sometimes round-based first person shooter. It’s probably the most popular type, but if it’s not the kind of game you want, you have few options. Only relatively recently have I begun to realize the kind of multiplayer game I really want is something more slowly paced, thoughtful, and tactical. Games like that exist, but they are few, distinct, and in many cases have small player bases.

It might be the reason I camp so much in multiplayer shooters. We’ve reached a point where shooter designers have tried to end camping because they think the only legit way to get kills is constantly running around and being better at pulling the trigger than the other guy. In my opinion it’s a perfectly legitimate strategy to find a strategic position at which to sit down and get the drop on your opponent, then switch to another position to stay a step ahead of the enemy. I like shooters that are more about getting the drop on your opponent than just running, jumping, and out-twitching them. The latter is almost certainly what Titanfall is about. Titanfall certainly has a strategic element to it, but it’s more of a second-to-second style of strategy, which is what you’re gonna get out of a game that’s about quick gratification. Maybe it’s like comparing chess to football. Both are pretty strategic but one is slower and more cerebral than the other.

One extremely niche shooter that’s found its way onto my main roster is the Source engine mod NeoTokyo. Basically it’s Counter-Strike rules but in a cyberpunk setting with three classes and optical camouflage. What I like about it is how the high lethality and absence of respawn forces everyone to really think about where the enemy might be and how to act accordingly. Being round-based makes each individual match feel like a self-contained tactical game between two teams instead of just a bunch of people running around. Maybe I just described CS, but I happened to get into NT first and haven’t had a lot of time to break into CS. I’m thinking about reinstalling Counter-Strike Global Offensive and taking advantage of its recent spectator feature which is supposed to act sort of like watching regular matches on TV. I think NT’s cyberpunk theme adds a little something to the experience though, and I really hope the listing for that game shows up on Steam one day so it can maybe get some exposure. I may need to move to CS anyway if NT’s player base disappears.

The last console multiplayer shooter I really got into was probably Metal Gear Online. Being an online Metal Gear game makes it different enough from the norm, but I think the biggest difference is its tactical pacing compared to most FPSs. MGO isn’t really slow, but it’s just slow enough to make you think for a second about where your opponent is and how to get the drop on them. Back when I played it real teamwork was quite common, even on the PS2 version. Making stealth a viable strategy resulted in a lot of players getting knocked out and gutted from behind corners. A lot of the time dominating a mach was much more about actually dominating the map than being the fastest guy on it. The return of MGO is probably my top reason for being interested in Metal Gear Solid V.

Another somewhat similar game that’s been at the corner of my attention is Red Orchestra 2. At first I heard all the things people usually say about it — that it’s extremely hardcore with realistic weapon mechanics, suppressive fire simulation, and other things that effectively make players feel like fragile humans. Upon trying it out on a free weekend though I started to think it might be more the kind of shooter I’ve been looking for. From what I could tell, everyone playing it was taking cover all the time, taking their shots carefully, and overall trying to keep abreast of what was happening around them. At the very least it’s a game I’d like to have the time to investigate further for being something out o f the ordinary.

A more obvious option for me though might be Splinter Cell Blacklist. I got a free copy with my graphics card late last year, and upon a rental I’d already checked out its resurrection of Spies vs Mercs. SvM took up a surprising amount of my time the summer after Splinter Cell Chaos Theory came out in 2005 and remains a unique game to this day. The asymmetrical play style, two versus two limit, and focus on objectives instead of kills really made it stick out as a game about defeating your opponent more mentally than physically.

Sure Blacklist has that new three-on-three mode with the perks and other things to make it more action-oriented, but sticking to the classic-style mode is in my opinion close enough to the old school game for a mainstream game released in 2013. It still displays pretty much the same virtues as its predecessors and is willing to maintain the asymmetric style, even if the maps aren’t quite as complex as Chaos Theory’s. And if it doesn’t work out in the long run there’s always Project Stealth.

The most popular multiplayer game I’m even remotely into right now is probably Team Fortress 2 ironically. I think what sets that game apart for me is that it manages to be extremely tactical despite how blazing fast it sometimes is because of how each class absolutely forces a distinct style of play. For some reason that’s the one shooter I play where a lot of people actually do use voice chat to coordinate. Why do Valve games have that effect? TF2 has also managed to remain a centrally important game to the Steam community for seven years, which no console game has been able to do, probably because of all the sequels. To be honest though I’m thinking of switching completely over to Mann vs Machine mode.

Horde modes have been one of my favorite additions to shooters, primarily because it’s a multiplayer mode in dynamic arenas where I don’t have to worry about competing against humans. Ever since I let my Live Gold run out though I’ve been looking for a replacement for Gears of War 3’s Horde 2.0 and may or may not have found it in MvM. MvM is fast and frantic, yet every class still has a specific role.

Recently I tried out the Co-Op Bot Destruction mode in Hawken (a free-to-play mech shooter if you don’t know) and was shocked by its intensity. It forces you to constantly maintain awareness of where your team and the enemy are. One slip-up is often enough to end your game or at the very least put your team in jeopardy. Another option I’ve been told to investigate is Mass Effect 3 multiplayer.

Whatever happens, it’s likely I won’t be focusing much on the multiplayer shooters everyone else is playing, much less the games trying to imitate what everyone is playing. Multiplayer games with different rules, objectives, and play styles are out there, you just have to spend a bit more time finding them, as well as other people willing to play them.

BULLETS:

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Late to the Party: Counter-Strike

With all these LTTP posts some of you at this point might wonder if I even play video games. As I usually explain, each of these cases has a different reason as to why I haven’t played them. Counter-Strike – the first multiplayer-focused game I’m parachuting into, has had its own barriers to entry over the years.

The thing is, I imagine the longer I kept from trying Counter-Strike the harder it would get. What other online multiplayer game has had this stable a rule set last over multiple console generations? Starting out the latest Gears of War game against people who’ve been playing since the original is one thing, starting a single game on which many players have over a decade of experience is another.

I was pretty much just always afraid that I’d get destroyed the moment I set foot in Counter-Strike. I can’t even maintain a positive kill/death ratio in Modern Warfare, and going into the Counter-Strike Global Offensive free weekend I was already aware of the game’s no respawn and high lethality rules.

Luckily – and if I buy Global Offensive in the future this will be a prime reason, the game includes bots which will at least help me practice the weapons and maps. So by the time I tried to jump into deep water I was at least familiar with the controls and basic rules.

Rule-wise the only game I’ve played even remotely similar to Counter-Strike is the source engine mod NeoTokyo (which recently got greenlit on Steam and should be releasing there this year), which had similar lethality, respawn, and round rules. Like that game, what I appreciate most about Counter-Strike is how the nature of the game itself drives everyone to actually work as a team.

I should put up a disclaimer here revealing that I actually only play Team Deathmatch in Modern Warfare, but in that game I’ve never seen groups of teammates stacked at one entryway firing into another full of the opposing team. I’ve never seen flash and smoke grenades used to actually cover a whole team’s push into a hallway. Things like this make Counter-Strike matches feel a little bit more like actual team-based tactical operations. Like in NeoTokyo, the high lethality and round-based rules instill an actual sense of self-preservation in most of the players which encourages more cautious and defensive tactics.

Adapting to this mentality alone does not get me through matches however. There seems to be a ton of minutia that I just haven’t picked up on yet that’s unique to Counter-Strike. These are things like the effect crouching has on offense and defense, weapon recoil, bullet pierce – things that would probably take me weeks of constant play to get down. That’s the learning curve that has scared me away from Counter-Strike for so long.

I’ve found that the best mode for acclimation is probably Arms Race where each player cycles through every weapon in the game upon each kill. That has to be the most self esteem I’ve had while playing an online shooter, as well as an easy way to learn the weapons and maps aside from bots. When it comes to the main modes though I’m still at a standstill.

I’m actually nearing the point of just giving up on competitive shooters altogether. My main reason for even maintaining an Xbox Live Gold account right now is Gears of War 3’s horde mode – I haven’t so much as touched multiplayer in that game. The reason I play Modern Warfare is because it’s my go-to game for quick gameplay, responsive controls, and modern automatic weaponry. I feel that for me to fully buy into Counter-Strike it would have to dethrone Modern Warfare in those areas.

I probably should’ve predicted this for obvious reasons, but Global Offensive handles ever so similarly to Left 4 Dead 2 – a co-op focused game that doesn’t frustrate me at all, so I could just stick with that. Heck, I haven’t even had the chance to try Team Fortress 2’s Mann vs Machine mode.

Another option is searching for modes in modes in multiplayer games that encourage the kind of cautious, tactical team play you see in Counter-Strike and NeoTokyo. I’ve been told Search and Destroy mode in Call of Duty set to hardcore is a good choice. When I first tried out Halo multiplayer I quickly discovered that my favorite mode was Team SWAT.

Either way, I’m sure now the main problem is the sheer availability of multiplayer gaming compared to how little time I have for them all. Counter-Strike maybe a staple for people reading this, but for me it’s another thing on the pile that has to compete.

BULLETS:

  • The PSP and PS2 Persona games (excluding 4 I think) are on sale on PSN now. If you like insanely long JRPGs that actually have good character development, I don’t think you can find many better deals.
  • Vanquish is also up there for $20 now. It’s Gears of War with the speed of Ninja Gaiden.
  • Kind of surprised to see Street Fighter Alpha 2 on GoodOldGames. What other classic games does Capcom have that they happened to release on the PC back in the day?
  • At some point I’m gonna have to get Okami HD. I’m hearing that not only is it 1080p native, its internal framebuffer is actually 4k resolution. I won’t believe that’s possible on the PS3 until I see it.
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