Category Archives: PC Games

FO4 featured

Boston Rules The Apocalypse: Fallout 4 Review

 

Disclaimer: HFG will make every attempt to be unbiased, but due to headquarters’ geography, please excuse any overly excited Boston lovin’! Also, there may be spoilers throughout this review.

Let me first explain I didn’t come into the Fallout series until New Vegas, so that makes me a bit of a newb in that sense; that being said, I was intrigued by the prospect of Boston being the setting (more specifically “The Commonwealth”) of Fallout 4, and Bethesda’s interpretation of the history and environment there. I’ll just say, if you haven’t been to Boston, and you are playing this game, you’ll find some history you may want to explore. So come on over sometime!

FO4 dialog

After playing this game for around 30-40 hours, I’ve decided that there’s been enough time for me to analyze its intricacies, and appreciate the environment.

Gameplay

This game, at its heart, is a hybrid FPS/RPG. It’s not a true FPS because of the optional third person camera, which is very usable for combat and exploration. And it is not a true RPG because of the V.A.T.S. system and the versatility of the player in general. The Pip Boy and the associated V.A.T.S. system is very familiar, with some welcome changes.

Though I would consider it partly an FPS, it is forgiving. Any RPG lover can pick this game up and enjoy it!

The opening scenes are very involving and suck you into the story. I’d play that part over on the daily if I could. You find yourself wondering what is happening outside during your time in the vault. I regularly find myself not being able to get up and head to bed when I play this game; the immersion is tangible.

Environment

As you would expect, Bethesda has created a site to behold. We know from their record with games like The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, they take overall environment into account when building spaces, both indoors and out.

Upon your exit from the Vault, the mood is very “dawn of a new day,” with anxiety of what you’ll find the world looking like after the bombs. You explore cautiously, as it seems too serene to be real.

FO4 actionshot

Draw distance, depth of field and bokeh are some of the graphics technologies used to portray the post-apocalyptic environment Bethesda has crafted. This allows for quite a spectacle.

As you progress to different areas, the story unravels, and becomes darker as you realize war never changes.

Weapons And Armor Crafting

One of the best features of this game is the crafting, and Bethesda struck the nail on the head here. Anything you pick up can be used to craft mods for your weapons or armor. Some items are more rare than others, where others you consistently have in excess.

Some of my favorite moments are being excited to build a mod only to realize I’m missing one aluminum part. This can cause two issues; searching nearby for more, or just giving up for the moment and coming back to it later.

FO4 gunmod

Some of the mods available include damage and accuracy increases, scopes and sights and stocks, or grips. Some of the armor mods are pretty slick, like increasing stealth, carry weight and increased energy resistance, just to name a few.

This doesn’t even start the power armor crafting, which if you don’t know, is the armor shown on the retail box of the game, as well as the commercials. It really comes to fruition in Fallout 4, as I don’t remember it being as readily available in New Vegas. The mods for it are intended to make you a mobile tank, with increases to carry weight, energy resistance and zero (yes, that’s no) falling damage. The third person animation in the power armor is exceptional, especially when falling from great heights!

Base Building And Survivalism

For many, this portion of the game will invoke fury. Gathering supplies and food and junk is part of this game and was for Fallout: New Vegas, but was in a much smaller capacity. After reaching the point of creating your first settlement, it becomes clear that you could never do another quest, and be completely overwhelmed by managing your settlements.

FO4 settlement

Providing them with living space, food, water, electricity and enough beds, can be a full time job. However, it is rewarding when they get to the point of self sufficiency. There are supply lines between settlements, and you can store all sorts of items there, and they won’t disappear after a certain time, like out in the world.

 

Item placement can be troublesome at times, without a clear “grid” you can end up with holy fences, and odd defense placements. Running electrical wires is also a challenge, for two reasons; copper is hard to come by, and all sorts of nonsensical things get in the way of the wire. ProTip: make sure you have line of sight to the next connection. You may need multiple pylons to get the job done. There is a limit of items per settlement, dependent on the settlement which can cause issues when attempting 100% happiness in the respective settlement.

Controls

We’d be playing this on PC, so the controls are W, A, S, D, where Shift is run and Ctrl is crouch. Pretty standard fare. However, console is played with their respective controllers, and they managed to get all the necessary keys assigned to buttons!

FO4 headshot

The dialog functions have changed a bit since New Vegas, with a left-right-up-down arrow configuration. I do end up clicking on the selection instead of using the arrows, as they are on the other side of the keyboard. Most console users will laugh as Bethesda mapped these to their four directional buttons (cheaters).

Occasionally, the dialog will disappear for just a second and you will left mouse click and shoot the person you are attempting conversation with. Annoying, but not game breaking by any means.

Story

Since this is an RPG, the lore (or story) should be deep and involved. There have been a few (Destiny for one) that come to mind, that didn’t quite do the lore correctly.

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Fallout 4 delivers lore on all fronts. They took the time to get the feeling of New England and our incessant sarcasm, all while taking care of the historical artifacts in our storied cities. Bethesda have addressed some serious topics in this game, relationship issues, addiction, and just figuring out how to be a good person in a complete wasteland.

Conclusion

Bethesda have created a winner in Fallout 4; I’m not certain if its because I’m fondly familiar with the area, or how they portrayed it. The gunplay, critical hits, V.A.T.S., and the Pip Boy add to the action, and the environment hugs you like a warm sarcastic blanket, laughing at your misfortunes on the way.

FO4 badnight

Do not avoid the terminals; they tell the story of the past 200 years. You’ll laugh, cry, and be generally disgusted by the happenings of recorded history. Now go out there and take it back for the people of The Commonwealth!

Website: Fallout 4

Will Project Cars Overthrow Forza And Gran Turismo?

Last year, I wrote an article for TechDissected, which I’ve updated here, on Assetto Corsa. It is still one of my favorite games on my Steam playlist to this date. But recently, Slightly Mad Studios has released a competitor to it, and the likes of Gran Turismo and Forza called Project Cars. It’s been a long time coming, and I wanted to get a feel for the difference between the two PC titles. Let’s explore how SMS takes on a racing simulator.

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The Menu

Right off the bat, the menu screen is a little busy for me. A lot of graphics and selections to make. Selections like Career Mode, Time Trials, and Practice mode all live here. If you need to do some more under the hood, you visit the tab on the top right for “Home” where you can edit settings on your cars before the race. There are also a myriad of audio, video, and gameplay settings. One thing I did notice when you fire this game up for the first time, is it asks you what type of driver you are. From here you can adjust your settings, but you can change them as time progresses as you see fit.

There are many sub-menus and settings to be changed in this game. If you have a controller or a wheel, you can edit these settings in their settings menu, to the nth degree. It allows you to fully set up your wheel or controller and individually assign buttons to functions. However, remembering what they do afterwards is always an issue for me.

Game Modes

Of course, what would a racing game be without game modes? There’s solo, online, driver network, career and time trials to name a few. Of course some will suit people more than others, but I’ll give you an overview of what the different modes are and do.

Solo

This mode allows you to set up a race, pit against Project Cars AI. I’ve seen races with as many as 30 cars, so it can get pretty intense. This is a great mode for practicing for career mode, where you deal with the AI on a high level. You can investigate how they take corners and react to your presence. You can also learn the track this way, by falling into line and following the AI and making better use of their racing line. I don’t find it to be helpful for learning the track, as I like time trial for that.

Time Trial

This is my favorite mode personally. It pits you on a track against the clock. This is where I learn how to go faster on a track I know, and learn a track I don’t know. You can change the setup in the pits, and you get sector times to track your progress on decreasing your lap times. Here you can adjust your racing line, your braking zones and your corner entry/exit without compromising other cars.

Career Mode

This is the mode that most folks from Forza and Gran Turismo will want to jump into. Slightly Mad Studios have even broken it down further for you and given you 3 modes within Career to whet your racing style. You can choose to win the Formula A championship within 7 seasons, win three different titles in three seasons or defend your championship win by winning three seasons in a row, within the same title. While I chose the first option to start out, the other two are quite desirable to have available, as you gain skill with the game, it would be quite fun to enjoy further annihilating your opponents.

Online

This says exactly what it means. You pick a game to enter, and race against anyone that enters. These are self hosted (not my favorite type by a long shot), and usually contain a practice session, a qualifying session and a race. Some allow you to enter after the race starts, and some do not. Most are a range of cars within a class, and some are multi-class races , which I find quite fun. This is the mode where you find out where you stack up against good drivers and bad.

This mode tests my patience every time I enter a lobby. You either have a group of drivers who are wholly better than you with a few stragglers, or a room full of “noobs” who love racing games, but don’t understand the concept of the word “backmarker.” More on this later.

Driver’s Network

This is another great mode. Similar to Gran Turismo’s weekly challenges, this offers a way for you to test yourself against other drivers around the world on the same track with the same car. You are racing against time, and can find yourself on the leaderboard in the end. They also offer prizes for some of them, where you can win peripherals by being top of the board!

But It Looks So Good

There is no doubt that Project Cars looks good. Since I saw a demo of it at CES 2014, I was impressed. Lens flare, reflections of the landscape in the windows, or even that annoying flash of the high noon sun off the rear window of the car ahead is all included and in glorious fashion. With the 60x time advance, you can get a full day of racing in, in just a few laps. The rain falling, splashes on the windscreen and your helmet, will smudge all of the important things you want to see. Sunsets and sunrises are extraordinarily realistic as your monitor turns into a ball of fire as you drive into them.

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My Radeon R9 290 has no trouble running it in Ultra settings, and I’m thankful for that, as I’d never know what I was missing without it. Toss in some fantastic headphones like the HyperX Cloud II, and you have the perfect recipe for a great experience.

The Experience

This is where the trouble begins for me. I can compare this to many racing games, but I will only compare it to two recent titles, as I have vast experience with them.

I’m not going to lie, once you figure where to go in the menu the jump in and race feature is very good. I can’t discount this game for that. It has a Gran Turismo feel to it, which means it is easy to jump in and get started. That means more fun quicker right? Maybe.

The menu is way too busy for me compared to Assetto Corsa. Simplicity is key for me here. I need to know what car I’m driving on what track and what the weather is. I find there is too much happening in Project Cars for me to get that information quickly.

The gameplay is good. The feeling of the cars are much better than Gran Turismo, but lacks a certain “urgency” that Assetto Corsa provides. When you are driving a car on the limit, there should be some racing heart beat and sweat. Project Cars feels like an Arcade video game in this aspect. The cars feel a little too “easy” to correct, and a sloppy line through a corner isn’t penalized as harshly as in AC.

In addition, the online gameplay is OK, but the added profile rankings make for difficult gameplay. The rankings were made so SMS can find out what type of driver you are when there is a complaint about you, I’d imagine. It retains information about how many yellow flags you’ve caused, how many races you start and how many you finish.

This type of thing is the direct result of being a popular game. As you garner more people, you increase the amount of poor drivers. The reason I say poor drivers is because most of the good simulation drivers already know about games like Project Cars. When you add poor drivers, you add stress to the average drivers, which in turn causes stress to the good drivers.

When you play games like Assetto Corsa, you have an expectation about the clientele that will be using the game. Since it is based on a true simulation with laser scanned tracks, you expect people to be as serious as the creators. I feel like Project Cars has made rather large compromises to appeal to a larger demographic. This will either make or break this title.

The second day of release, I played this game online for about three hours. In those three hours, I experienced four game crashes, two online games where my car started in the sky above the track and multiple people using my car as their brake pedal. I’m hoping it will get better.

Conclusion

While I paid $50 for this game, I’m not sure its even worth the $30 I spent on Assetto Corsa. While the amount of players is much higher in the online mode, the quality is not. The compromises Slightly Mad Studios weaseled into the game, changed how I felt, especially compared to seeing it at CES2014. Instead of being a racing simulator, its more like an arcade racer with support for simracing gear (wheels, pedals, TrackIR).

I feel that with the support of the two consoles and PC, Project Cars has the upper hand over Forza and Gran Turismo, but they have a lot of work to do on the quality of the game, and the driving skill required to play it. It has been in development for quite a number of years, yet the aggregate score on the XBox One version is a mere 59%; mainly because you lose controller support during the game. It is this type of massive oversight that can wreak havoc on a title and really needs to be brought under control.

I can get by with the noob racers, and the sometimes idiotic AI (not one racing game really has it right yet), but the fact that one of the versions on release loses connectivity with the controller? This seems like something QA should have caught months ago. It makes me wonder what pushed the release back in the first place, if this still happened.

If you are excited like I was, certainly pick up this game. But rest assured, when you get hit from behind in an online game, it will be anyone but me.

Website: Project Cars
Twitter: Project Cars
dream pack 1 cars

Assetto Corsa – Check Your Racing Setup

Many years ago, in the times of the Apple IIe green screen, I played a game called Test Drive. That was close to 30 years ago. To this day, I continue to try to play as many racing arcade and especially, simulation games I can get my hands on. You name one, I’ve tried most of them. Once we got a computer that could handle it, my first real love was World Circuit by Microprose. It was a game meant to emulate the Formula 1 season, and it still has a cult following, with folks even coding to add the teams of the current year.

However, as my PC’s strength waned, I turned to consoles and Sony’s Gran Turismo came to light. From there I went to XBox 360 and Forza 3, and now I’m on to Gran Turismo 6, the most recent of Sony’s offerings for the PS3.

However, during a Steam Early Access sale, I got my hands on this new simulator called Assetto Corsa. The name is interesting, as directly translated means “Racing Setup,” so let’s hope the game offers the same feeling.

The Menu

The opening screen is very simple. Buttons on the left are all expandable, and contain things like Drive, Career, Replay, and Settings, to name a couple. Selecting any of these will get you more options presented on the main portion of the screen where you can then select your requirements and be off. Career mode is not available at this time in the pre-release.

The Settings selection offers full customization of your controller of choice, although this game was meant to be played with a wheel and pedals. You can also load profiles of certain wheel types in this menu. My wheel was listed, which made this an overall excellent experience. After marching through the sometimes awkward configuration wizard, my Thrustmaster F430FF was ready to provide input.

Setting up a Race or Time Attack can get a little confusing with all of the available options. There are three pre-made driver difficulties in the Realism section, but you can manually change any of the settings within that menu. Additionally, you can change what time of day you’d like to race which is definitely a good feature, and one most simulators have now. There will be changing conditions in the release edition, as well.

Once those selections have been made you can select what cars you want to race against and how many. Before you get into the race there is a final summary screen which gives you a total breakdown of what you have selected, who you are racing and the like. Once you look over those settings, you can hit the checkered flag and you’ll be loaded up into the race menu.

Race Menu

Once in the race prep screen you’ll see a new menu to the left side of the screen. It houses a few options. The important one is at the top; Drive. However, the others are related to the setup of the cars. Of which you can adjust everything. Spring rates, camber, differential settings, and tire pressures.

assetto corsa la ferrari
Image Courtesy of Assetto Corsa

As the title says; Racing Setup. At this stage of the game, I was more interested in the feel of the cars on the track and the “ability” of the game to hold my attention. Let’s see what you get when you select Drive.

Driving In Assetto Corsa

I’ve only raced a car on a closed circuit once. I’ve been involved in many karting races over the years however. And that is the one thing about this game that will get you every time. The driving is so realistic, it’s almost sickening. You need to be paying attention at all times. This game treats you like I’ve always wanted to be treated. While MMORPG’s and FPS’ gather folks attention for hours at a time, this game demands it is your one and only concentration.

There are no stereo settings, and with that no music, because as any real race driver can attest, that is a distraction from the task at hand. And that task at hand is driving a simulated car around a simulated track. If you thought you could answer a text on a straight or look at your TV for breaking news during this violent thrashing of your senses, you are sadly mistaken. I have never been so engrossed in a game before that I felt I couldn’t do anything until it the task I was performing was over.

And let me preface the next statement with this; Assetto Corsa needs a wheel and pedals to enjoy it proper. This game has set a new bar for me in a simulation game; total and complete immersion is what it takes.

The feeling of the tires breaking traction is evident through the wheel (if it has Force Feedback of course), and the punishment for hitting a kerb is disrupting the balance of the car, and possibly your hands on the wheel. If you are blessed with a wheel with an H-shifter and a clutch, I can only imagine what that immersion is like, as I only tested with my paddle shifters on my 430FF.

Add to the mix where the developers have baked in support for triple monitors so you can also see to the front left/right of the car and you have a real challenger. But there’s more. They are going to support Oculus Rift in this game, which if you haven’t heard, is as close to virtual reality as we’ve been with currently available technology. As you move your head, you can look around the car and thus, outside next to and in front of you at any angle.

Assetto Corsa Data Output

For a few years now, we’ve seen more of this data output from games. Especially in FPS, where the game tracks the number of bullets fired, where the bullets hit the enemy and how many times you reloaded. Well Assetto Corsa’s team is going next level with this game as you can access the data and use it “…either via UDP, shared memory, Python or C + + plug-in.”

As it is, the number of plugins available is impressive and they provide real time information about the car, track, and other drivers. I’m curious to see what outside developers will create for use with this game.

Dream Pack 1

Since I originally purchased this game from Steam, there have been many updates applied to this game. However, none have been better than Dream Pack 1. While you have to pay extra for this pack, the laser scanned Nurburgring Nordschleife is worth the extra price alone. If I were to tell you that there were more cars to be had in the Dream Pack, and they had reached an agreement with Automobili Lamborghini for future releases, would you be more impressed?

dream pack 1 cars
Image Courtesy of Assetto Corsa

The Dream Pack adds the Chevrolet Corvette C5R, the Nissan NISMO GTR GT3, the Alfa Romeo 4C, legendary 155 Ti V6, and the 1966 GTA, to name but a few. Ten cars in total were released in this pack to add to the existing vehicles, bringing the total to 49 cars.

I have already spent hours playing the Nordschleife, and expect to spend hours more. While most definitely the hardest course to master in the game, it is most certainly the most rewarding to learn. The 24 hour version and the “Tourist” version are available.

Final Thoughts

I’ll be honest; I wasn’t trying to love this game. Since I bought Gran Turismo 6 in December on launch, I’ve been enthralled with that. However, on a whim and during that Steam Early Access sale, I took the leap. Now my PS3 sits idle in the living room while I’m enjoying a true driving simulator.

The available settings on the cars are enough to keep the most intense “car nuts” happy, and the immersion during the driving itself is enough to keep the racers involved. The car list for the pre release is enough to keep me interested with GT6 and 400 cars in the other room, so that says something right there.

Again, this game isn’t going to be for your casual player. You can play it casually, as in pick it up for 20 minutes and throw a race together, but its not a simulator for the feint of heart. There’s a reason its named “Race Setup” as that’s what you need, both the hardware and the frame of mind.

Website: Assetto Corsa
Google+: Assetto Corsa
Twitter: AC_assettoCorsa
Facebook: Assetto.Corsa