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Friday 17 June 2005

Musings on Half-Life 2, Splinter Cell, and Raven Shield [Beej]

Well I feel a few months behind you, but I'm now catching up with my clannies - I'm currently working my way through two ace games on my lappy after work every day.
  • HL2 - now I had managed to play up to the Buggy levels a few months ago, but then I broke my laptop and didn't get a chance to finish it (Acer UK support must die, etc)
  • And I've also been playing Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory which I picked up in mid-May looking for something that would last as a one-player game that wasn't more DOOM.


Coming back to HL2 is just ace. Well, playing through Ravenholm a second time is a bit painful, it takes ages. So first time around I'd got as far as the Buggy about the time that you guys were completing it - and actually, when I came back to work I didn't mind that much because the whole driving around on the sand being attacked by antlions wasn't really turning me on much. In fact, I'd nearly lost faith but then you get to the bit with the crane and you drop Iso/Connex shipping containers on the little soldiers down below and that makes up for it :)
So I've just done the lighthouse, where the dropships come down and drop off squads. That was a really good running battle, enjoyed it. I was quite bemused by the knobbly balls that you come across on the road. At first I thought they were just a distraction, designed to block your view and shake the car, but then they actually seemed to be coming for Gordon and I realised I could use the gravgun to shoot them out to sea (fwunk... splosh... BOOMMMMMMMMM)
Last night I made it to Nova Prospekt, and I like the bugbait used to control the antlions although I think it made the entry to Nova Prospekt a bit easy. The beach defences felt a bit COD, and in fact, I thought the corridor with the red flares in was very atmospheric. I like the radio chatter more and more... its less ambiguous than the original HL1 stuff. Coming up into the Nova compound under the watchtowers reminded me of doing a similar entry from the sewers in HL1, when you're coming back into Black Mesa and kill off a load of Marines around a tank which you have to satchel charge.
So now I'm in the prison, just got to the Big Antlion scene when it breaks through the walls. All good.


One of the reasons I'm really enjoying it, despite feeling like a latecomer to the HL2 party, is that my new lappy is doing a better job than my Athy XP + 9800 desktop was. I got an Asus z71v (badged AJP) which has a widescreen nVidia 6600 which is really very good. I'm running HL2 in 1680x1050, turned the AA off for now but it can handle it okay if you wanted it on.
The z71 isn't so happy about Splinter Cell in 1680, in fact, the frame rate would really drop when anything was happening, even background stuff, so I'm running in 1024 with AA on. It might be a driver issue, I'm on 71.13 and they're about six months old. Will attempt an upgrade to 77.60 in anticipation of BF2.


The first level didn't bode well - a fucking castle on a cliff, oooh, very original for an FPS I don't think. Reminded me of Ghost Recon. But then it picked up, and the second level, on a boat, whips the slitty eyed arse of that Playstation Solid Snake shit which was also on a boat. For Ubisoft, I'm shocked at the menus, they're not at all fucked up. The UI when playing is quite good, although there's no illustration of your speed-cum-stealth posture, which is pretty fucking important but had to figure out for myself was on the mousewheel and isn't displayed. The vision modes like thermal are great, much better than Raven Shield or Ghost Recon. It was refreshing to not be so gun focused as in DOOM3 and GR and RS and the whole caboodle, where the trick is just to use the right weapon for the right situation and not run out of ammo or spray. Dangling off balconies, creeping past guards not killing them, avoiding spotlights, yes, I enjoyed it.
But after the bank level, it feels a bit easy. I made my way past the guards, got on the roof of the bank, killed the power, and what, the skylight has opened by itself and a rope has appeared? wtf? maybe it was the Abseil Fairy :)
The atmos is good, the graphics and lighting are very good, the control system is good. The physics is there, and so I guess really, despite the forumlaic nature, its not a bad game at all considering the sort of trash that Ubi Montreal could have churned out. It's just a bit... easy, creeping up on people and stabbing them or shooting them with a silencer.


I'm wondering if this will be improved by the high standard of SC:CT? I think RS3 doesn't fare well to SC:CT which is really very nice on PC. I'm wary of RS being given more gimmicks, such as that centre screen flash-and-open orders thing (I'm sure I like it any more). What RS needs is maps of the standard of SC:CT, and it needs to be more immersive and let me abseil from a helicopter and shimmy down a drainpipe and to whack tangos with the butt of my rifle from behind. And in RS3, what was the handcuffing shit all about? I point a gun in their face and they still want to raise their gun and shoot back! That handcuffing crap was all a sham, and never made any damn sense.
On the other hand, we don't need the RS series to go the way of SWAT4, which is all when I grow up I want to be a policeman fanboy shit; dressed like you're all specops (yanks getting carried away again!) but all you do is actual handcuff people. Sounds wank thankyou!
Perhaps a future RS could break up the monotony a bit with some sniper only levels (1player obviously), like that bloody great game Hostages. Or could the multiplayer have a bit more effort put in than just a map I've played before with non-randomly placed AI? I say AI, when what I really mean is a drone who stands still, doesn't patrol, and says "whatwasthat?" in a Latvian accent.
If Ubi could get some of Splinter Cell to rub off on Raven Shield, I think that would only be a good thing.

1 comment:

  1. I was quite surprised to stumble accross Iron Wrath, a free expansion to Raven Shield from Ubi. Available on fileplanet. It's available to non subscribers & you get an install key generated & mailed when you download it. Seems up to snuff with the rest of RS3. However until I fired it up again I didn't realise just how much it's dated...