Category Archives: Review

Ghost Recon: Online Preview

There is a time when a Strategy fan, like me, will reach out to a more “FPS” tactics game. Since I am still in the mood for reviewing/previewing Free to Play games I decided to give Ghost Recon: Online a go. I never payed much attention to the series. Not because I do not like FPS/Tactics games but because I have a bit of a problem with “Tom Clancy”. There are countless “Tom Clancy” brand games, and not just FPSs. There was at least one Strategy game and a Flight Sim. It sort of reminded me of the Modern Warfare franchise, and I could really care less who and why I am killing this time.

So here we have it, Ghost Recon: Online. What is it about? How does it compare to other Free to Play Games? Let’s find out!

Ghost Recon: Online

“Lock ‘n Load gents.” – From left to Right: Recon, Assault and Specialist.

Ghost Recon: Online – What is it about?

Ghost Recon: Online is about… Special Forces fighting against other Special Forces, in what appears to be Russia, with a Middle Eastern undertone. Our guys are brighter than the dark enemy guys, but we both play as the good guys. The game uses the America’s Army “trick” of making the opposing team always look like the enemy.

There are three classes to choose from, the Assault, Specialist and Recon. You would think that’s highly limited and I would agree. Each class has two main weapons to choose from and a side arm. Each class also has two Devices and Team Support “Buffs”. So, into battle you will take only one of each… but it’s surprisingly deep, for so little content.

The Recon can use a cloak or Oracle, essentially limited range “X-Ray” glasses, that ping enemy positions. Now, if you played Planetside 2 a few months ago you would had heard a lot of criticism regarding the Infiltrator class. The Infiltrator had a cloak and Sniper Rifle, and he could hack terminals. However, he had VERY limited usefulness. People wanted for him to use SMGs, or have more to choose from, so that he could be more useful. Well, Ghost Recon: Online does something Planetside 2 should had. The Recon can have the a fore mentioned Cloak and Oracle, and in terms of weapons he can use an SMG or sniper rifle. Normally the SMG goes with the cloak and the Oracle with the Sniper rifle, but you can experiment. The Recon class can be used in brutal close combat, or as a distant sniper. He always has as little health, but that always comes into the equation. A sneaky Recon can wreck havoc on the enemy.

Ghost Recon: Online

Normally a game will not look this organized, although you might see very similar scenes as you play.

The Specialist at first reminded me of an Engineer. He can use either a Shotgun or LMG (Light Machine Gun) and has the Blackout or Aegis shield. Blackout, when used, causes a small “Ion” storm in the local area, and any enemy player in that area will lose his HUD and will be defenseless for a short while. Think of it as an introduction to an attack, where you make the enemy defenseless. The Aegis shield create a “bubble” around the Specialist, blocking pretty much any and all shots. This means that people behind the Bubble are also safe, and your own men can fire through it. However, grenades can pass through the Aegis bubble, and if an enemy walks “through” the bubble (gets very close) he can kill the Specialist.

The Assault has an Assault Rifle and shotgun (just like the specialist). His Devices are the HEAT and Blitz. HEAT creates a radioactive “wave” in the direction that it is pointing. This causes damage to enemy looking toward the HEAT, and makes it impossible for them to fire. Friendlies, as far as I can tell, are not effected by this. The Blitz is a deployable shield, that allows the Assault to charge forward and knock out the enemy with his shield. The shield acts as front protection (when active) but when inactive it protects your back (from shots and grenades).

You can begin to see how these three classes, with their different setups, can work together. A Recon uses an Oracle to locate enemy troops, the Assault then pins them down with the HEAT, while his squad advances, and just before they jump over the barricades the Specialist could cause a Blackout, giving your team a brief advantage at the start of combat. The Squad Benefit devices also differ in usefulness, so you might be a Specialist that resupplies ammo or speeds up the energy recharge on himself and his allies.

There are different maps, and while we could say that all of them are relatively small they offer enough space to flank and outsmart the enemy, in multiple ways. Usually the teams are not big enough to cover every direction fully, so a slightly tougher push, with the use of devices can benefit either team.

Ghost Recon: Online

Oracle in action, note the highlighted enemy silhouettes. Your entire team can see them as well.

As far as I can tell, all game modes are about capturing points. There are a few variations of this. For example, there is a single point, and the team that holds it when the timer expires wins. Then there is a pretty standard “Conquer” mode, where there are five points, and the team that captures all, or holds the majority, wins. Then there is an Attack/Defense game mode, where teams take turns defending three points from the enemy team.

The overall victory is calculated based on the results from two or three rounds. So while one team might win by holding three out of five points in the first round, the other team might then capture four points in the second round and win overall.

What happens next? Well, there is an economy in the game. Each battle (won or lost) gives XP and RP. RP is used to purchase weapons, armor and “Mods”, for your classes. As you level up with your classes you will unlock more weapons, but they cost an arm and a leg. It is tempting to say that you do not need new weapons but sometimes it is necessary. For example, you start the game with a pump-action shotgun, while already at level 5 you can purchase an automatic one. You can also purchase the a fore mentioned Mods, that can be installed on your armor, for example, giving you certain bonuses. These Mods are not game breaking, at least not when I played the game, but they might give you that small edge over your enemies.

There is also a qualification system, that gives you achievements points. I have no idea what those are for, other than telling your enemies “Oh hey, you got killed by somebody who has more qualification points! Eat that!”. I complete them as a sort of “training regimen”. I practice with the different weapons, and when I finish mastering one qualification for a weapon I then jump to the next one.

What of Premium?

Premium currency in Ghost Recon: Online feels optional. It is mainly used for buying cooler hats/helmets, and it may be used to speed up the buying of higher level weapons or gear. It may also be used to obtain “Supply Crates” with random gear. As far as I can tell, in terms of “balance”, somebody who chooses not to use Premium can obtain the same gear as somebody who does. So you will not be that much far off in the arms race, especially if you want to focus on just one specific class (I do recommend trying all of them first though).

Yay or Nay?

I will put it this way, I was very surprised with Ghost Recon: Online. It is very well thought out, with in-game voice chat, Fireteams, and optional challenges for Solo and Fireteam play. Each Class feels useful in some way and teamwork pays off. The problem is that it might be hard to work together effectively, since people will not always communicate, so your best friend is self awareness.

I would say that one of the best additions is the “Firing Range”, where you can test out any weapon in the store, with different attachments, on “Mannequins” with basic health values. You can practice moving to and from cover, etc. even while the game is still looking for a Match or Server.

The main issue I had was other people… but that is something that always seems to happen between me and FPS games.

You can find more information on Ghost Recon: Online on their official site. There you can also view a number of videos explaining the different Devices the three classes unlock.

Alex “WriterX” Bielski

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon Review

It’s safe to say that if Ubisoft was intent on making a cybernetic-in your face, raunchy, violent yet strangely humorous game, they have succeeded with Blood Dragon.
I acknowledge wholeheartedly that if blood, guts and gore combined with fantasy are not your thing it is perhaps best to steer away from this game and stick to more light hearted entertainment such as exciting slots games found at BookofRaspiel.de. But if you want unadulterated 80’s VHS style entertainment Blood Dragon is a winner.

Discover colors never meant to be seen without a black light.

Paraphrasing Psy: “80’s VHS style”

Blood Dragon is pretty much only really related to Far Cry 3 in name and in gaming engine but aside from that everything has been changed. New enemies, new graphics and a new storyline all make Blood Dragon vastly different, and it can be hard to tell that you are actually playing on the same map and using the same engine as Far Cry 3.

The game is set in a visually stunning, futuristic 2007 and the premise seems to be based on the fact that in the 80s people thought that by the next millennium cars would fly, cyborgs would rule the world and aliens would attack at any minute. Your character in Blood Dragon is a cyborg-human who is trying to save the human race from an evil dictator who is somewhat, predictably trying to take over the world.

The retro future of the game rocks, but overall its let down somewhat by the missions. All the missions seem to be very much stock fodder from the era, with avoiding being eaten by a Blood Dragon, infiltrating a base or blowing up weapons of mass destruction a prevalent theme. Storyline wise it’s incomparable to Far Cry 3 but you do get to use some of the more exciting vehicles from the main game to complete your quests.

The humour in Blood Dragon is intentionally cheesy and whilst the game manages to pull off a serious side it seems Ubisoft was hell bent on portraying a total parody of 1980s sci-fi films. The voice acting is rather average but the soundtrack is pretty awesome and could come straight out of a stereotypical 80’s film.

Overall, in comparison to its big brother Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon may be a little lacking in game play, but its great theme makes it mind blowingly appealing and will get you hooked-fast.

Rating:8.5/10
Pros:Hilarious parody,
Fun action,
Multiple ways of handling a given situation
Cons:Basically just Far Cry 3 with a different face,
Blood dragons are more trouble than they’re worth
Game producer's website:Ubisoft
Official website:Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
Game available at:

Game Dev Tycoon – Let’s Make Games!

Game Dev Tycoon is something I would call a “light simulation”. You are the head of your own Video Game Development Studio and what you do from there is entirely up to you… sort of. You start with four set Gaming Topics, and a very limited number of design options and you make games. At first from your Garage, eventually moving to a humongous Studio/Office. From Zero to Hero, that sort of thing. Along the way you will research new design techniques, making your games even more awesome. You will improve the skills of your workers (and yourself) to specialize in different design areas… Eventually, you might decide to make your own “Super Game”, with a million dollar budget, for your own Console, while your R&D Department will help boost Hype around your new title. It all sounds colorful, doesn’t it? It’s a somewhat bumpy road, but still a pleasant one.

Game Dev Tycoon

Microsoft started off in a Garage, you will too!

Metro: Last Light (The Light of Humanity)

What is humanity? A lot of people would say hope, that whatsoever evils occur and however far mankind strays from its morals, its principles, and the spirit of its own rules, there is always that ever-distant hope that drives us on. True, humanity thrives on hope, and where no hope is to be found, it can begin to founder. Unless you’re Russian.

Resident Evil: Revelations (Syndicated, Incorporated, Replicated)

I’m rapidly beginning to feel like Resident Evil has taken the place of the Mega Man franchise of my youth: There’s a new one out every month. Following quickly on the heels of the moderately innovative yet flawed Resident Evil 6, Resident Evil: Revelations is an effort by developers to fill in and piece together some of the more obvious gaping holes in the Resident Evil canon, particularly the ginormous nothingness between Resident Evil 4 & 5 where our cast of known characters went from lone, wandering, outcast, underdogs to a group of world-class badasses melded together by a sense of purpose and a world-spanning counter-bioterrorism organization bankrolled by the UN.

Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel (Striving for Mediocrity)

Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel is the third installment in the TWO series, this time being farmed out to EA’s Montreal division and in cooperation with Visceral Games, best known for Dead Space and not lot else. As one would expect, it’s a third-person shooter making great use of cover physics and copious chest high walls, the story featuring the legality and efficacy of private military contractors, this time taking on drug cartel in Mexico for reasons never really well explained.

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon (Now with Added Cyber)

Imagine the distant future of the year 2007. The second Vietnam War has ended with a scorched earth policy. America has nuked Canada to end the war, and now the cleanup has begun. The post-war economy is boom-bust. Why use a VHS when a disc can hold twice as much data? Why send a letter when an e-mail can make its way halfway across the world in less than 30 minutes? Why recruit soldiers when you can just resurrect the ones who died in the field?

Poker Night 2 Review – When “Just Poker” is Not Enough

At the start of April I noticed a special offer sale for Poker Night at the Inventory and its sequel, Poker Night 2. Aside from the shorter name what caught my interest are the characters who would be entertaining us during the game this time. We would have Brock Sampson (from the Venture Bros Series), Claptrap (From Borderlands 2), Ashley Williams (From The Evil Dead) and Sam (From Sam and Max), with Glados acting as the Dealer. While waiting for Poker Night 2 I decided to play as much of Poker Night at the Inventory as possible and I was pleasantly surprised. The humour was rich and interesting, the inter-changeable decks, table covers and chips added something interesting to the game, and the random occasional rewards spiced things up for my Team Fortress 2 account. I had one major issue with Poker Night at the Inventory, and that would be the surprising Hardware strain on my Laptop. I was armed with similar expectations when I finally entered Poker Night 2, and I was very pleasantly surprised.

Bioshock: Infinite – A Minute Macrocosm

Bioshock: Infinite is the third hit from Irrational Games, and frankly the weakest of the three. I know saying that has just ignited a lynch mob and is bound to fill the comment section with people screaming STFU, but please hear me out.

I acknowledge wholeheartedly that Irrational has created a sweeping experience that slowly carries the player from a place of ignorance to one of enlightenment. It’s a long series of carefully placed clues intertwined with a satisfying story to bring us to the story’s twist (just as there was in Bioshock). And we as players get so bent on looking for and anticipating that moment of revelation that we’re willing to forgive and forget a lot, but it has to be said that the experience Bioshock: Infinite presents is simply not as solid as its forebears.

First, I’ll sing the game’s praises and hopefully tiptoe through the explanation of its weakpoints without giving away any spoilers. So allow me to give a stream of consciousness regarding my first few moments playing.

RAGE at paid day 1 DLC. I already paid a fucking arm and leg for the game, Xbox, and TV. I’m not throwing more money out for the DLC, Xbox Live, and internet when there was no reason other than greed on earth, heaven, and in hell for this business practice—Wow, cool music video! Fuck the season pass store! Rowing, rowing, rowing, learning I’m playing as Booker Dewitt, an ex-cavalryman who served at Wounded Knee. Being talked about like I’m not there by a couple of bickering Brits. Now I’m being stranded. Now I’m reading a threatening note from a creditor that can’t possibly have been placed in such a remote area by anyone other than an inhabitant. Find religious tripe. Repeatedly. Then, oh blue fucking Jesus, a man’s been tortured to death…which I suppose is historically appropriate for religion too. Alright, stuffed into a rocket, then shot into the sky—Where I find the sublime dream of an America that never was in gold, white, and blue. Is this heaven? Crap. They’re all Christian fanatics and I’m seeing triptychs and iconography reminding me of a combination of several cults and architecture pulled from major churches of the Latter Day Saints… This won’t end well.

Bigotry. Religion. Prejudice. Yup. 'Murica

Bigotry. Religion. Prejudice. Yup. ‘Murica

Columbia, the city in the sky, is a metaphor (both in the glories presented and the evils hidden) of a society governed entirely by a unified religion. It’s a metaphor for the promised land that was the American Dream, and our character is a metaphor for the lowly immigrant who ventures across dangerous waters and uncertain circumstances for the hope that the dream is a reality. It contrasts sharply with Rapture from Bioshock, a forward thinking society that had cast out all religion. The subtext of Columbia, whether implied or just plain unavoidable, is that adherence to any one creed in word and not in deed brings about the same earthly evils as any society with or without a religion. The joke whose intentions I’m still questioning is that adhering to any creed in deed will bring about horrors of a different but equally terrible nature. It maintains both capitalist and segregationist overtones while presenting its citizens in a fashion that I think qualifies as uncanny valley.

Unlike in Bioshock, where you arrive to find Rapture already in ruin and are left to piece together in your mind the splendor of yesteryear, Columbia is filled with living, breathing citizens. They say a few words as you pass by. But you can’t respond. And their mood is both so peaceful and bland (reminding me of the Eloi from The Time Machine) that you realize the entire city (with its peoples) is based on The American Adventure pavilion at Epcot Center. There’s even an homage to it with an animatronic George Washington at the floating boardwalk. That in itself could be enough of a hook to pull us in. Sadly, it doesn’t really go anywhere. They all simply disappear when the shooting starts. There are no murmurs of dissent or slowly changing popular opinion as the game progresses and the city spirals further into dystopian ruin. It’s simply a stage early in the game that’s just as easily forgotten, and to match as gripping an experience as the first Bioshock requires that each element of the story and stage of the game lock together to create a tapestry that flows and moves, each piece of the utmost important to the whole.

That doesn’t happen here. You run across segregationists and ant-segregationists, and just leave them as you found them. The same with a floating version of the Ku Klux Klan that hails John Wilkes Booth as the slayer of the Great Tyrant. You are pulled in as a sort of Anti-Christ figure in their religious mythology, but you’re never given a choice. And since one of the major themes in Bioshock: Infinite centers around the choices we make and their consequences, being railroaded throughout the game just doesn’t make any sense. You are presented with a macrocosm of ideas, possibilities, and ideologies, but have only one way of doing things.

Heads or tails? Doesn't matter.

Heads or tails? Doesn’t matter.

Take for example theft. There are areas in the game where you are guilty of theft and attacked if you pick up things off the ground. In other areas it’s considered scavenging and perfectly fine. I would happily pay for the items rather than steal them, but I’m not given the option. So I’ve gotta be branded a thief and kill a bunch of people unnecessarily.

On the other hand, I have many options when it comes to using my Vigors, Columbia’s version of Rapture’s plasmids. But I only use whichever one I currently have equipped since they all pretty much do the same thing. I can fling them directly at the enemy or use them as booby traps, firing with my gun all the while.

Gameplay in Bioshock: Infinite is diminished due to a lack of strategy. Your enemies all have guns. They shoot at you. That’s it. In Rapture my enemies were armed, unarmed, acrobatic, heavily-armored, navigating a maze of ruined art deco buildings and half-flooded apartments. My ammo was limited and my plasmids at best put me on even terms with the enemy. I had to hack cameras, turrets, and other gadgets and take advantage of semi-destructible environmental items to stay a step ahead of the hordes of crazies who wanted to use my skin as a dressing gown. Here I frequent a lot of docks and loading bays and shoot a lot of people screaming prayers, which is what people tend to scream when you’re walking around shooting at random. There’s no strategy. No puzzle-solving. And no story engagement since I don’t ever identify or get to know my enemies. In Rapture I almost pitied the psychotic splicers who had been driven over the edge of sanity by their own warped science.

The only time Bioshock: Infinite breaks from this mold is when you take the skyrails, mixing high-flying rollercoasters with shooting in a fashion I think was done first in the film Zombieland. Still fun as all get out, though. I restarted several times just to play the skyrails over again.

Since Vigors are not used to their full potential, there needs to be a game-changing element here. That element, or so I thought for the first half-hour, was Elizabeth, the quasi-dimensional Tails to your silent and repetitive Sonic. This is the closest to puzzle-solving that you run across. Elizabeth can open portals to other dimensions. She brings you money, salts, and ammunition. And she can even bring into this reality objects and architecture from other realities. But why, if we’re looking at an infinite number of outrageous possibilities, does this boil down to sentry turrets and skyhooks? A year before Bioshock: Infinite was released, Irrational claimed that Elizabeth would be doing crazy things like dropping freight trains onto enemy’s heads and knocking down walls with speeding firetrucks popping out of thin air. They’re working with quantum mechanics and postulating the infinite universes theory here. They could literally pull from anything their sick, twisted little imaginations come up with, and the best they can do is sentry turrets? That’s throwing pearls before swine!

Weapons, wind, half-turning? Criteria for a badass game cover met.

Weapons, wind, half-turning? Criteria for a badass game cover met.

The graphics are breathtaking, and Bioshock: Infinite modulates the mood impeccably, especially when it has a nasty surprise in store, but there are thematic inconsistencies which taint what would otherwise be a satisfying experience. In Rapture, their entire society was based on casting aside their past and full steam ahead to a bright, unfettered future. That future came in the form of plasmids: a substance which could change your genetic makeup and give you unbelievable powers. Rapture’s rise, politics, economics, warring factions, and eventual downfall all revolved around plasmids. In Bioshock: Infinite, the presence of Vigors is not explained. They have no demonstrable impact on society. What’s worse, considering how hidebound and traditional Columbia’s society is, gamechanging elements such as Vigors should’ve been eschewed. Throw in quantum physics, religion, ancestor worship, capitalism, segregation, and there is, in other words, no singular lore to which Bioshock: Infinite ascribes in order to maintain a tight, cohesive world. Your storyline might move along quickly, but in order to plant the seeds of doubt in the player’s mind which anticipates the inevitable twist it sacrifices substance for glitz. Your voxophones, which are recordings you pick up that are meant to give you a greater scope of the world you find yourself in, only encompass a few main characters rather than helping to give the player a grassroots perspective of the situation.

Make no mistake; Bioshock: Infinite does many things well. The voice-overs and dialogue are toe-curlingly good. The character designs are tight. Animations flow believably. The storyline as a whole is radically different from the norm. It will be very hard for any newcomers to take the title from what’s rapidly shaping up to be game of the year. But it doesn’t top the original Bioshock.

And it makes you think in a bad way. While Bioshock made you spend a quiet afternoon pondering hidden meanings, Bioshock: Infinite will have you pounding your head against a wall trying to make sense out of pieces that don’t comfortably fit.

Rating:9.5/10
Pros:Storyline.
Lampoons our own preconceived notions of America.
Skyrails rock.
Cons:Combat becomes repetitive.
No unifying theme.
Elizabeth is a resource squandered.
Game producer's website:Irrational Games
Official website:Bioshock: Infinite
Game available at:

Cart Life: Not Only About Carts

Some time ago I stumbled upon a small Steam offer for a game called Cart Life. I was hungry, at the time, for a decent Economic Simulation and when the promise was that of playing a Cart Vendor, dealing in prices, supply and production, I was sold. What sold this game for me at this early stage was the price and it’s intriguing Indie look. I do not care about graphics at all, as long as they are functional or in some way eye catching. If we were to take a Triple-A release and compare it to Cart Life nobody would most likely take it seriously. I did, and after playing just fifteen minutes of this game I knew I hit a jackpot. Cart Life is not just a game about running your own Business. It’s about life, in an almost brutal nightmarish sense. There are reasons for that and I will explain them in as much details as plausible.

Cart Life

Not just about Carts but personal hygiene as well.