The Frag Limit


Battlefield 3 – Review
July 1, 2012, 5:15 pm
Filed under: Hit Scan

Review Score:   84 / 100

Review Stats:

  • Gameplay – 8
  • Fun Factor – 9
  • Competition Value – 6
  • Replay Value – 10
  • Intangibles – 9
  • Total Score – 42 (x2) = 84

Game Information:

  • Platform(s) – PC, 360, Ps3
  • Release Date – October 25, 2011
  • Game Modes – Conquest, Rush, Squad Rush, Squad DM, TDM

The Nitty Gritty:

Hello everyone.  Today we are going to be taking a look at Battlefield 3 – Dice’s new heavy-duty modern-day, miltary shooter.

Dice spared no expense in the development of this game and it shows.  From the lush, crisp graphics to the loud, enrapturing sound to the tight, gritty battles, Battlefield 3 is a game that is meant to impress.  And it does.  Just like all the other games in the Battlefield legacy, Battlefield 3 has everything that one could expect from the franchise.  The big sprawling maps are back, as are the many different playable vechicles and the real-time destructable environments.   Additionally, the great host of weapons and personal araments introduced in Bad Company 2 also make a return (though this time the collection is even more comprehensive) and player/soldier customization again plays a huge role in compelling and enticing players to keep on playing time and again (often times for many, many hours in total).

In addition to all this epic goodness is a fairly extensive singleplayer campaign as well as a thorough Co-op experience.  In sum, the game is rather huge when considering all of its different parts and it gives players a lot of content to play with for a good, worthwhile period of time.  For our purposes here, however, we will not be considering the “total package” of Battlefield 3, but rather just focus on the multiplayer componant specifically.  And at any rate, the multiplayer componant will give us more than enough to discuss and critique for this review.  So let’s get started!

Gameplay:

Multiplayer is all about gameplay.  And with Battlefield 3 we have sort of a conundrum.  On one hand, bf3 offers a deep, challenging and fun gameplay environment which will keep gamers engaged and coming back for more for a long, long time.  On the other hand, bf3 dissappoints when considering gameplay balance and how well the game operates as a platform for competition.  To parse out these differences, I will be discussing the former aspect of “gameplay” here in this section.  And in the upcoming section called “Competition Value”, I will be discussing the latter aspect.  Hopefully, by seperating these two distinct areas of interest a clearer picture can be drawn about what Battlefield 3 really offers – both in a positive way and in a negative way.

So how does the gameplay in Battlefield 3 offer a deep, challenging and fun gameplay experience?  It does so primarily in two distinct ways.  The first way is through its offering of a huge sprawling world of options, customizations and player specializations.  In the world of Battlefield 3, there are over 55 different guns alone (9 assault rifles, 6 carbines, 7 light machine guns, 8 sniper rifles, 6 sub machine guns, 5 shotguns, 6 rocket launchers and 8 pistols to be specific – along with several faction variations).  There are also a whole host of weapon ”modifications” which allow players to tweak their weapon setups with scopes,  barrels, grips, lights, laser-guides and suppressors – among other things.  Additionally, there is also helping handful of grenades, mines, mortars and c4 explosives which add to the mix.  This gun-crazed and “armed to the teeth” environment makes the gameplay incredibly deep and challenging (challenging in that it can sometimes be quite difficult to fight, or contend with, a better armed or better equiped oppanant – or even just a smarter opponant who uses his resources well).  It can also be challenging for any given player to find a decent gun which he can feel comfortable with.  All of this nuiance and detail created by this sprawling world of weapons and armaments makes the game a real treat to play as one inevitably starts at the bottom of the food chain and has to work their way up through determination, skill and hard work (and a little luck).

The other way the gameplay succeeds is through the “Battlefield Experience” itself.  As we all know, the Battlefield series is known for its wild, intense and completely unrehersed “action-movie” type game scenarios.  And in Battlefield 3 we are heartily dealt more blockbuster, “wow that was cool – did that just really happen” moments that we can shake the proverbial stick at.  It is in these epic, winning moments that game really comes to life and it is in these moments that players want to play relentlessly, night and day, and non-stop, in the name and persuit of Fun and excitement.

Fun Factor:

Well, as I just noted, Battlefield 3 can be a real blast to play.  And the overwhelming majority of this “fun-ness” comes from the well-known and much-apprecitated “Battlefield Experience”.  No other franchise has yet offered any sort of competition, or clone, to this winning gameplay combination (which is a real puzzle) and the Battlefield games remain the sole providers of the chaotic, but controlled, and the random, but intentioned, pre-eminant “sandbox shooter” gameplay offering of the digital warfare arena.

So what exactly is this experience all about?  This experience is about a number of different things and it can be represent through a number of different actions or action sequences.  You may find yourself base-jumping from an impossibly high ledge one moment, shooting a plane out of the sky with a tank round the next moment and then spraying the enemy down with a mini-gun on a helicopter that your buddy is piloting after that.  The combinations available for these crazy action moments are incalculable as there are simply so many different ways to do something that is both really cool and also feels like it came directly out of an action movie.  Indeed, this is what the Battlefield 3 games have always been about: Creating an open world where one action will positively affect another action should the timing and the psychics of those actions be in conjunction with one another.  If you shoot a sniper round while lying prone in small shrubs on top of a distant mountain at a helicopter coming toward you, you might just kill the pilot with a head shot if your aim, trajectory, and accucracy are true.  The ballistics and in-game mechanics will not prevent this from happening, but instead, they will allow it (and promote it) and this is what this makes this game so darned fun to play.

Competition Value:

Let’s now get back to the other aspect of the “gameplay” that was mentioned above in the Gameplay section.  In that section I mentioned that Battlefield 3 suffers on the level of competition by failing to provide an adequate platform for competitive play. Battlefield 3, while damn impressive in many areas, does not really offer an even playing field for the benefit of tournament or league play.  Its sheer size and depth are exciting and compelling, but that really has no bearing on how great the actual competitive multiplayer experience really is.

Essentially, what prevents Battlefield 3 from being really great, is also what makes it “epic”.  The scale and immensity of the game are exactly what end up bogging down and imbalancing the general competitive gameplay experience on a broad and unforgivable level.  This problem underminds most everything that the game is trying to accomplish – at least for hardcore gamers.  For the console players and for the casual players, perhaps there are no issues and everything is hunky-dory, but for us hardcore PC players, who have been fragging for some time, these issues of gameplay imbalance cannot be forgiven.  The incredible arsenal of weapons, gadgets, customizations and specializations are fun and exciting, but unfortunately there are too many inherent advantages and exploitations in such an arsenal which can be used to skew the general competitive “setting” of the game.  If there were about a quarter as many weapons and customizations then perhaps this issue would be irrelevant.  But as it stands now, there is just too much lee-way in the technical functionality of the game itself to be considered a serious contender for competitive gamers.

Replay Value:

As already mentioned, Battlefield 3 offers a wide range of gameplay options through it’s vast and comprehensive weapon’s offering.  This offering gives players a lot of content to chew on – maybe more than necessary – and will keep gamers busy for many hours.  This aspect of the game is one of the strongest aspects – if not the strongest aspect – of the game in general.  Players can easily become addicted to the formula and wish to level up and unlock everything possible.  And this will take awhile.

Intagibles:

Battlefield 3 gets a solid rating in the area of intangibles because it just offers so much excellent content across the board.  From the stat-focused Battlelog.net program to the awesomeness of the near-chaos gameplay to the all-round fun factor, this game is just a blasst to play.  The game is greater than the sum of its parts – and being that it has a lot of parts, the sum total is quite great.  Even priced on the high-end of a modern day, triple-AAA title, this game still provides hours of worthwhile entertainment – despite its lack in the area of competitive gaming.

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Battlefield 3 – Browser Based Content
May 10, 2012, 5:14 pm
Filed under: Side Strafe | Tags: , , , ,

Dice is doing something new.  Or, at least, they are doing something partially new with the way first-person shooters handle game content.  In Dice’s latest release (Battlefield 3), the company has made the decision to offload a wide array of content that has traditionally been incorporated into each standalone game installation.  They are accomplishing this by exporting this content into a browser-based, web format.  The content that has been offloaded in bf3 includes such things as player statistics, friend communication, friend status, item information, sponsor promotion and even the server browser!  This unique approach to handling this type of content is semi-groundbreaking – it has been done before (Steam, 3rd party modifications, etc.), but never has it been done to this extent.  One question invariably arises from this bold action on Dice’s part, and that is this: Does this system of offloading content actually work or somehow make the game experience any better than the traditional way of doing things?

My opinion is yes.  This system (known as Battlelog) does work and it does make the FPS game experience a little bit better (as opposed to not having it at all).  Battlelog is fast, easy and intuitive.  And it is an excellent method for accessing all of the important information and user content that is not directly related to playing the game and being inside the game world itself.  Battlelog allows players to quickly log into Origin (the publisher’s online platform which hosts Battlelog) and then to find a game, review personal statistics, research weapons and communicate with friends, etc, all “on the fly”.  Additionally, there is even a social media aspect to Battlelog as players can view a stream of their friends activity and how they are progressing in throughout the game.  This social element has all the standard things that most social sites have and players can comment on their friends progress, create and maintain a group (clan), message one another and even “like” each other’s activities.

Other advantages of offloading content to Battlelog also means no more relying on varying, and often incompatible, types of 3rd party programs to keep track of statistics, clan communications, player progress and the like.  In the “old days”, players had to download various applications to handle all of the things that are now neatly taken care of by Battlelog.  This centralizing of game content into a form which is consumable and accessible to all players improves ease of use and content effectiveness, while combating problems such as software incompatibilities and technical conflicts.  Additionally, the browser-based structure of Battlelog works well in translating content into different consumable methodologies (given the nature of the internet) and allows players to review Battlelog on their phone, tablet, or other emerging portable device.

Overall, I really like Battlelog and, to be honest, I can’t really think of any major problems with its design, its theory and its execution.  Of course, there may be some minor gripes – such as user experience inconsistencies and the getting use to a “new way of doing things”.  But these complaints are relatively minor.  And I am sure that in the future, as this type of format grows and evolves, issues of juggling between a browser screen and a windowed instance of the game will be resolved – or, at least, will be seen as normal, acceptable and commonplace.  Battlefield 3 may not hit the mark in a number of ways (especially in relation to not providing a worthwhile platform for competition), but in the case of Battlelog, the game succeeds admirably.  And, it is this kind of smart thinking and creative action that we hope to see more of in helping to continue the long, great legacy that is FPS gaming.



Battlefield 3 – Weapon Overload?
May 9, 2012, 4:24 pm
Filed under: Side Strafe | Tags: , ,

Battlefield 3 has a lot of weapons.  In fact there are over 55 different kinds of guns alone.  There are 9 assault rifles, 6 carbines, 7 light machine guns, 8 sniper rifles, 6 sub machine guns, 5 shotguns, 6 rocket launchers and 8 pistols in the game (with several faction variations as well).  In addition to this, there are also a whole host of weapon “modifications” which allow players to tweak their weapon setups with scopes,  barrels, grips, lights, laser-guides and suppressors – among other things.  Furthermore, there are also helping handful of grenades, mines, mortars and c4 explosives to add to the mix.

With all this firepower it makes one wonder how one can survive in such a hostile environment.  It also makes one wonder how the gameplay (and the general sense of player to game interaction) is affected by this extreme arsenal of armaments.  In this post I will consider such questions and try to parse out the true affect (whether it be good or bad or something else) that all these weapons have on the game.  Is this wide choice of weaponry an example of giving gamers the versatility and depth that they want or is this just simply weapon overload?

Playing BF3 is a lot different than playing other modern shooters.  Yes, other games have often have a wide aresenal to choose from – but BF3 is in a league of its own.  Even Battlefield: Bad Company 2 doesn’t offer as many weapons, modifications, gadgets and so forth as Battlefield 3 – indeed, there is nowhere near the same amount of options.  The first question that needs to be answered is why?  Why did Dice choose to go with this route?  Why are there so many weapons?  One answer may be that this is the current trend (although with the sheer scale of unlockables in BF3 it goes beyond the trend considerably).  Another answer – and the answer that I believe to be most realistic – is that Dice wanted to create a structural system of incentives.  Essentially, they wanted to make the game addictive.  And addictive enough so that gamers would be compelled to play the same maps over and over again until new content could be released via expansion packs.  Obviously then, this system of incentives boades well for the company’s bottom line and, in the end, isn’t that what it’s really all about (for Dice anyways)?

The question following why Dice made the game like this is; does this system of incentives actually work?  Does the large arsenal of weapons, gadgets and customizations, etc., actally pay off and make the game a better game?  Does the large arsenal make gamers want to play more than if it otherwise didn’t exist?  My answer is… is that it probably depends on the player.  Each player has their own unique interpretation about what is and what is not compelling.  Some players may be extremely motivated to unloack each and every item until there is nothing else to unlock – while others may find a “decent” weapon and stick with it indefinately (and not necessarily b compelled to find something better).   Indeed, in my experience with Battlefield 3, the latter case tends to be the most true. 

Having played the game for a little over 40 hours now, I have only unlocked roughly a quarter of everything there is to unlock.  Invariably though, I almost always end up playing with the same “configuration” – I always end up playing with the support class with an AEK, holo sight, grips and supressor.  Ninty percent of the time I select this loadout.  It seems to me that I have found a winning combination (for me) that augments and supports my tendencies to play stealthily, nimbly and quitely (and as medic) and I pretty much have no desire to try anything else.  Indeed, I have tried other things, up till this point, and those things have usually gotten me killed or have otherwise comprimised my ability to play the best I can in the world of Battlefield 3.  For me then, I have no incentive to unlock more and the structural system of incentives that Dice so wanted me to fall for now just seems like a large, bloated, purple elephant in the room.  And I have no intention of messing with that elephant.

I know that others though do enjoy the incentive of constantly unlocking new weapons and assests.  Indeed, on nearly every server I play there are usually about a quarter of the players on that server who have unlocked everything there is too unlock and are now simply playing to bump up their rank and/or just playing simply for fun.  I have nothing against this, of course, and I am glad that those players have gotten as much as they can out of the game.  For me, however, I will probably not be investing that much time in the game as to unlock every item (it would take somewhere in the ballpark of 80 hours of gameplay to get there if I continue at this rate!).

The other major question in regards to the large amount of weapons available in bf3 is gameplay.  How is the balance of the game affected by having over 55 guns to choose from?

To say this least, Battlefield 3, and other modern shooters similar to it, are not like the older shooters that came out a decade ago.  Games like Quake 3, Tribes, and Unreal all had a limited number of weapons that each individual player could use and no additional weapons could be unlocked.  This helped balance these early shooters well and prevented any one player (or team) from dominating the other players (or teams).  Indeed, this balance is what made these games special as the focus was less about configuring the perfect deadly combination of class and weaponry and more on simply playing as best as possible within the confines of the gameworld.  And here is where Battlefield 3 suffers.  Battlefield 3 can not and does not provide the equal playing field that those eariler games provided.  It can not provide that equal gameplay simply because it offers too much.  It’s complexity and it’s structural system of incentives makes the game bloated, heavy and slow – and not to mention, unfair.

Given this, there is always the argument that if every player on a given server (say, in a clan match) has unlocked every weapon and every item, then the game will be fair – or at least, a lot less unfair.  I am uncertain whether this argument is valid or not, as I can understand both sides equally.  Of course, if every player has equal access to every weapon/item then no one player can have a technical advantage over any other player.  Conversely though, the sheer number of weapons available in the game may create an intrinsic imbalance that may be so great that even if everything is unlocked and available to every player the combination of skill and play style, for each specific player, coupled with specific weapons may create a compounded effect larger that what can be accounted for by the other team’s players.  For example, if there was a really good version of me out there (and I’m sure there is), then the combination of using a stealthy/nimble play style with an AEK or silenced sniper rifle may simply overwhelm the competition.  No combination by the opposing team can really resolve that threat – of course unless there was a similar player on that team.  This “sum is greater than its parts” effect is a huge problem for gameplay balance in an competitive environment and I’m not sure anything can remedy it (in Battlefield 3’s current set up).

Overall, of course, Battlefield 3 is just a game and provides a solid amount of entertainment.  In this light, perhaps weapons overload is not an issue and is a real advantage for those who prefer to play the game casually.  For those who want to play the game more “seriously”, or in a competitive manner, the huge number of weapons in bf3 makes the game beyond consideration for competitive use.  The imbalance created by those weapons is just too great – no matter how you cut it.



Quake Live – Review
May 6, 2012, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Hit Scan | Tags: , , ,

Review Score:   88 / 100

Review Stats:

  • Gameplay – 10
  • Fun Factor – 8
  • Competition Value – 10
  • Replay Value – 8
  • Intangibles – 8
  • Total Score – 44 (x2) = 88

Game Information:

  • Platform(s) – PC, OS X, Linux
  • Release Date – August  10, 2010
  • Game Modes – Duel, DM, TDM, CTF, Clan Arena, Freeze Tag, Harvester, Domination, Attack and Defend

The Nitty Gritty:

Hello everyone.  In this installment of Hit Scan, we are going to take a look at Quake Live – id software’s online competitive revamp of Quake 3 Arena.

So much has been said and so much as been written about Quake 3 and it’s derivitives over the course of the last 12 years that any new content about the game is surely going to rehash old material.  This begs the question of why even bother creating another review?  Well, since our specific focus is on multiplayer FPS gaming here at The Frag Limit, we feel that in this review we can offer a more tailored perspective of the pros and cons of this game for the dedicated/hardcore fps gamer.  We will look specifically at the details of how the game performs, what it offers competitive gamers and it’s overall impact and influence in the realm of professional gaming.

Quake Live is a “port” of Quake 3 Gold (the combination pack containing Quake 3 Arena and Quake 3 Team Arena released in 2000) and is based on the same engine (q3 or aka idtech3).  As such, Quake Live inherits many of its asthetic properities directly from q3 – the same original maps, sounds, gamemodes and gameplay mechanics are all used in QL as in the original.  Indeed, Quake Live is just about the same exact game as q3, except for some minor differences.  The biggest difference is that it is now a browser-based game that can be downloaded, accessed and played from any remote location as desired.  In this setup, players download the small, but robust, engine down to their local HDD and play online via the dedicated skill-based match-making master server.  The setup is nice and works as promised – though it can be a bit ad-heavy at times.  Other differences include the absence of blood, gibbing and satanic references (perhaps a notable betrayel from some players) and also the absence of dedicated servers and the ability to play any custom map as desired.  The HUD has also been changed – it is now more user friendly and easier to use or consume.

Alright, let’s now get into the details!

Gameplay:

As might be already known by most hardcore, competitive audiences, Quake Live really shines in the realm of gameplay.  Of course, the major advantage in this area obviously comes from the fact that QL uses the immensely popular and award-wining Quake 3 engine – which is a highly-polished, finely-tuned, quick, tight and nimble engine if there ever was one.  Engineered by the legendary John Carmack, this engine proves why it was (and still is) one of the major foundations for the world of competitive, hardcore, professional gaming.  The engine is fast, responsive and absolutely lag-free (client-side) and it is an undeniable  joy to play on.  Fortunaely, Quake Live inherits all of these outstanding physical properties from Quake 3 and nothing is lost in translation (in spite of the crossing of technology platforms and methodologies).

The other major aspect of the gameplay is the gameplay balance itself.  Like Q3, QL has no classes of any kind (although it does have model options) and only a handful of different weapons to chose from.  The lack of classes – despite the modern tendency for a wide array of class options – is not necessarily a bad thing.  The sameness of each player makes the game just that more fair and balanced.  Simiraly, unlike modern fps shooters, there are only a select number of weapons that can be used (depending on the map and gamemode).  This lack of weapons also aids fairness and makes the experience much more enjoyable from a purely skill-based standpoint.

Fun Factor:

Quake Live is a fun game.  But it’s an old game.  Essientally, it’s the same game as Quake 3 (except, of course, for the minor changes already noted above).  Given this, Quake Live feels like something that you have already played.  And if you are any sort of serious fps player than chances are relatively high that you already know what the Quake 3 experience is all about.

In spite of this, however, Quake Live can be a damn fun thing to play – regardless if it’s 1999 or 2012.  The tight gameplay, frantic battles, the matching of wits, and the general sense of just playing a good ole’ fanshioned deathmatch can be a real blast.  There is a reason why Quake 3/Quake Live was (and still is) so popular.  Gamers the world over love demonstrate their ass kicking skills and what better way to do that then through the ultimate platform for competition?  The even balance of the QL battlefield provides an equal and fair environment in which gamers can honestly display their raw, unadulterated gaming skills without the interference or distruption of overpowered weapons, items or player advantages.  And indeed, from the newest newbie to the most battle-hardened veteran, the game holds no favors and pulls no punches for anyone.  It is in this environment – whether it be old or new – where many fun and exciting battles for honor, glory, esteem and bragging rights plays out.

Competition Value:

Quake Live was built for competition – literally.  Much of the revamping and redesigning of the game, from Quake 3, was intended to make the game more paletable and more accessible to the hardcore, professional gaming audience.  The removal of blood, gibbing and satanic references all made the game more of a legitimate “e-sport”, instead of just a simply violent video game.  Additionally, the redesigning of the HUD, and many in-game icons, along with the decision to make all enimies one specific model, all make the game more easily consumed in a professional environment.  These changes all have made Quake Live one of the foremost choices in gaming where money is involved.

In addition to satisfying the professional gaming crowd, Quake Live also succeeds in satisfying the larger amuater clanning crowd.  While this crowd is not pulling in any money, per se, they still do have a strong tendency to take their games very seriously.  The fact that QL provides a fair, balanced and even playing field, only makes it that much more popular for those gamers who are looking for such important things.  In this regard, QL is a true winner.

 Replay Value:

While the basic gameplay hasn’t changed a bit from Quake 3, Quake Live does feature some added content to the experience outside of the actual gameplay itself.  Like many other modern games, QL features a slew of “medals” and awards that can be unlocked through actions acheived inside the game.  These awards are given for many different reasons (such as, for playing for a certain amount of time, for dealing out the most damage and for being the best player in a given round, etc.).  While these awards in no way affect the actual gameplay – meaning that you don’t unlock new weapons or upgrade your skills in any ways – these awards do make the game seem relevant and provide some incentive to keep playing.

The stronger reason to come back playing again and again is that it is just a damn fun thing to do.  This is especially true if you haven’t played Quake in awhile or any other game that is similar to it (meaning fast-paced, balanced and easy to learn/play).  The seminal shooters of yesteryear – the ones that came out around the turn of the century (like Quake, Unreal, Tribes, etc.) – are a dying breed, or, more likely, have long since been dead.  And in their place slower, more delibrate shooters have come along.  While these games are all good and well, perhaps gamers are pining for something with a little more… action?  Quake Live provides this much needed frenetic action, that has been missing for so long, and for that it scores well with gamers who see the game as being “a breathe of fresh air”.

Intangibles:

There are several different things that Quake Live does nicely.  The first thing is that the game loads quick and easily.  Anyone with a PC and an internet connection can download the game and play from any location of one’s choosing.  This is nice and handy if you are say at school – or maybe even work – and you want to get a quick 10-minute frag in just to relieve some stress or get your mind off other things.  The download is fast and often times wil go unnoticed (depending on connection speed).  This is a real advantage when time constraints are an issue as QL will get you in and out of the game as fast as you can possibly want to.

Additionally, the game is free.  If you just want to play some of the vanilla q3 maps (and a handful of popular custom maps), you can do so without dropping a dime.  There is no charge at all and you can play for as long as you like.  However, if you feel like you are getting bored with the standard fare and want to frag in some other arenas, the “pro” version will allow you to do just that as well as some other nice things.  For a small monthly fee, you can get access to some of the finest, user-made multiplayer maps and also the option to create your own “server”.  These additional things are nice as the original maps can become stale with multiple playthroughs.

Overall, Quake Live is a great classic multiplayer fps video game.  Indeed, it is not a game that should be missed.  Wether you are a newbie or a seasoned fps veteran, QL provides the quintessiential deathmatch experience.  An experience in which most other modern shooters have either directly evolved from or been strongly influenced by.  And it is with this pedigree that every serious gamer should at least take, in one point in their life, the time to play and appreciate the simple (though powerful) roots of the lasting legacy which is multiplayer gaming.



Tribes: Ascend – Review
April 15, 2012, 2:08 pm
Filed under: Hit Scan | Tags: , , , , ,

Review Score:   92 / 100

Review Stats:

  • Gameplay – 9
  • Fun Factor – 10
  • Competition Value – 8
  • Replay Value – 9
  • Intangibles – 10
  • Total Score – 46 (x2) = 92

Game Information:

  • Platform(s) – PC
  • Release Date – April 12, 2012
  • Game Modes – DM, CTF, Arena

The Nitty Gritty:

Hello everyone and welcome to the first Hit Scan review here at The Frag Limit.

Today, we will be taking a look at the recently released multiplayer FPS game, Tribes: Ascend (T:A).

Tribes: Ascend is a game which continues a long legacy of the Tribes franchise – a franchise that was once (as many consider) to be one of the four major pillars of the competitive-based FPS world about a decade ago (with the other three being Unreal Tournament, Quake 3 and Counter-Strike). 

Tribes: Ascend continues this brave lineage rather well.  While maintaining some of the much beloved original elements in the earlier Tribes series (such as large open maps and the use of jetpacks) the game also utilizes updated graphics (which are based on the licensed Unreal 3 engine), improved sound quality, improved mechanics and a whole host of other updated and well-implemented technical elements.  

This combination of keeping the good bits from the past while improving on the cosmetic aspects (and also adding a good amount of depth to certain areas) makes Tribes: Ascend a great game.  It wins on almost all accounts and delivers an action-packed, fun-filled, adrenaline-pumping FPS experience.  While it is not a “new game”, in that, it is not a new franchise, it does represent a revival of some of the best aspects of the fast-paced, frenetic action that was common in the FPS games of yesteryear.

Gameplay:

The gameplay in Tribes: Ascend is excellent.  There are certain advantages to using a popular, highly-refined, modern game engine (such as the Unreal 3 Engine that was used for T:A).  And the smooth movements, tight game controls and responsive physics found in Tribes: Ascend are all evidence that this particular level of quality found in the game comes directly from using Epic’s excellent technology.  Here, in Tribes: Ascend, the Unreal 3 Engine really shines.  The action is quick and tight and no local latency or hardware drag is apparent (this is, of course, when using an optimal machine at reasonable option and graphic settings).

Getting on to the actual balance of the game, the design and execution of the classes, weapons or other items in Tribes: Ascend all help distinguish and highlight the excellence of the gameplay in this offering.  Each tribe consists of nine different playable classes which each have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. Some classes are fast, but have weak armor and some classes are slow, but have heavy armor. Some classes represent a middle range and are well-balanced, but lack real strengths in any area. Some classes are well suited for offense (such as capturing and returning the flag) and some classes are well-suited for defense (such as defending the generator and flag stand).   The weapons are also well designed in T:A, as are the slew of unlockable assets, and nothing in the game seems to overpower any other thing (note: this only applies to players of equal rank – gameplay imbalance is an issue for highly differentiated players).

Fun Factor:

Tribes: Ascend is a blast to play.  And for this fact, it rates as high as it possibly can in this category (10).  The action, which held in tension by the two warring tribes in this game (the Blood Eagle and the Diamond Sword), is paramount.  This game has more fun, “wow that was cool” moments than one can shake a stick at.  This is primarily due to the two most important game mechanics of T:A – skiing and using a jetpack.

Skiing allows gamers to reach incredible speeds while going downhill, or across horizontal surfaces, and jetpacks allow gamers to reach impossible heights, which are inaccessible in most other games. These mechanics change the dynamic of the overall experience and give gamers a whole new dimension to do battle. In any given match, players will be blazing over terrain at breakneck speeds to mercilessly hunt down the enemy, flying high over the hilltops to reach the enemy flag or using a combination of both gameplay mechanics to bring victory for their team. This wild and crazy scene of frenetic energy may seem chaotic and out-of-control for some players, but the beauty of this game is that these controls can be tamed and brought to order.

Competition Value:

Tribes: Ascend is a “free-to-play” game – meaning that it can be downloaded and played for free (and without limitation).  However, the game also offers a deep, unlockable economy of assets which lends itself well for those who are more interested in just paying a few bucks up front in order to purchase “Tribes Gold” which will help unlock these assets quicker.

Given the nature of this type of highly customizable economy of assets (which includes unlocks for weapons, belt items, packs, deployables, armor, skins and perks), the value of competitive gameplay can be affected.  Players who have unlocked copious amounts of assets via experience points, or by purchasing their way to the top, have a notable advantage over those who do not have a stellar inventory of assets.  This imbalance between players of a high rank and players of low rank is a serious problem for conducting fair and pragmatic clan-based, competitive multiplayer gaming.

In spite of these things, however, Tribes: Ascend still provides an awesome platform to host some kick-ass clan battles.  And perhaps advantages in asset inventories are not that much of a concern for league play as those truly dedicated players will always find ways in which to improve their skills (either by grinding or paying their way to the top).

Replay Value:

There are two major incentives for players to play Tribes: Ascend over and over. The first obviously comes from having the ridiculous amounts of assets available to unlock as the game progresses.  This deep inventory goads players to come back again and again in order to progress through the game experience.

The other major incentive that keeps players playing Tribes: Ascend is the repeat value of the game experience itself. Tribes: Ascend is just too much damned fun to play! The gameplay is extremely addicting and there almost a million different ways to play the game. While there are only a dozen maps (at this point in time), the maps never really become stale as there are tons of different tactics and strategies which can be used. The open-endedness of the game creates a wide diversity of play styles and interactions (especially as one unlocks more stuff) that one will find in the game.

Intangibles:

Tribes: Ascend is a free game!  That in and of itself should be reason enough for scoring a 10 in this category.  What’s even more impressive than that is that Tribes: Ascend also delivers a hell of an experience.  As already noted several times in this review, Tribes: Ascend is a blast to play.  With the tight gameplay, solid graphics and sound, a robust economy, engaging and complex matches, fun battles and a wide variety of classes and upgrades to continually unlock and strive for, T:A delivers a multiplayer experience comparable to nearly any leading FPS game on the market.  And did we mention that it was free?

Another big thing that Tribes: Ascend has going for it is that it is a game that harkens back to the glory days of multiplayer FPS gaming.  Around the turn of the century there were a whole host of games that featured fast, in-your-face, on-the-edge-of-chaos type gameplay – games such as Quake 3, Unreal Tournament and yes Tribes and Tribes 2.  All of these games put the gamer in whirlwind state of violently fast and frantic fragging and gibbing.  Tribes: Ascend is one of the few games now-a-days that nods back to that previous by-gone era with respect and acknowledgement for the goodness that those games brought to the world.  And T:A is one of the few games today with a commitment to restore and revive that goodness for a new generation of gamers.  For this, and for the many other things it offers, Tribes: Ascend is a winner.  Now go download the game and start fragging immediately!



The Frag Limit is now open!
April 13, 2012, 1:03 am
Filed under: The Gib Pile

Hello world.

This is the first post of many, to be sure, for The Frag Limit.  Here at The Frag Limit we will be discussing everything having to do with mulitplayer FPS gaming.  Indeed, this blog is dedicated to this subject and this subject alone.  Unlike other blogs which hop around from subject to subject based upon the random interests of its’ creator(s), The Frag Limit will give its audience a dedicated stream of commentary, opinion, reviews, essays and articles related solely to multiplayer FPS video games.  This is our commitment.