HYPE PAYOFF: OVERWATCH OPEN BETA

My Blizzard odyssey continues with this weekend’s Overwatch open beta. In short, it is everything it’s been cracked up to be. Which is to say, really, really fun.

My first Play of the Game may not necessarily be impressive, but it offers an accurate snapshot of Overwatch’s obvious appeal. The setting is Route 66, a Nevada desert-themed payload map, in which the attacking team needs to stand near a vehicle - the payload - in order to inch it toward the finish line across the map’s main highway, while the defending team assails them from the mine tunnels, cliffsides, and Spaghetti Western-style buildings adjacent to keep them off the thing. I was on the defending team, and we weren’t doing particularly well. The payload had pushed its way to about 10 metres from our spawn point, a sort of interior hangar bay area with lots of nooks and hallways for the attacking team to strike from. Up till that point I had been playing Widowmaker, a Femme Nikita sniper, to abysmal effect. I don’t think I landed a single headshot that game; fortunately, her weapon has a semiautomatic alternate fire and I was managing to contribute something. But now that they were bottlenecking to their victory condition, I needed to change it up. On my last death, I swap characters to Junkrat, the peg-legged Australian demolitions expert, and leap into the fray just outside our saferoom. Strafing madly from behind my team’s frontline, I lob ricocheting bombs off of walls, behind cover, and into the enemy team, each ballistic ringing like an alarm clock before exploding. I drop a concussion mine at my feet and pop the remote detonator as soon as it appears in my hand; rather than hurt, the explosion rockets me straight up into the air, a sweet angle for raining hot TNT onto the attackers. Inside of 15 seconds, we wipe out most of their team, with less than a minute on the clock. We swarm the payload to get it crawling, crawling in reverse, until we hear footsteps pounding through a corridor on the left. Three enemies crowding in to flank us. Our Reinhardt, Schwarzenegger in silver armour, drops his barrier shield and advances on the doorway to hold them off. From behind him, I’m giggling deviously and chucking wee grenades over his head and shoulders until, FWOOSH, my Ultimate finishes charging. I activate it and Junkrat rips a chainsaw cord on his spiked, explosive tire, sending it rolling past Reinhardt’s shield. I control the tire now, instead of Junkrat, and bounce it right between the suckers in the hallway. Tick, tick, boom. All dead. Victory screen. Play of the Game. It takes confidence to offer up a hotly anticipated release in open beta. Getting my hands on the game sealed the deal; I’m gonna be playing a ton of Overwatch this year.

It has every little detail I look for in battle arenas. There’s a killfeed, but no score screen; they give you enough information to know who’s balling out of control - they are on fire - but not enough to kick off the blame game. Contribution level is unpredictably summarized as top records just for that match, which are randomized at the end of each game. Players can all vote on which record-holder had the most impressive performance, and that user gets a few extra points as recognition. There are so many metrics of performance in this game that it’s hard to be left in the dust every game - Blizzard battles toxicity not by muting it, but by drowning it out with positive feedback, and this just feels right.

The characters, even at their 2edgy4u-est, are delightful. You can play a wall-running Brazilian Jet-Set Radio Future guy; or a cybernetically-resurrected Japanese ninja; or a butch Russian woman with a gun that shoots black holes; or a floating robo-Buddha who occasionally achieves Nirvana in the middle of combat. The maps, too, span the near-future globe, from Hollywood soundstages to Egyptian ruins to snowswept Russian munitions factories. The international cast echoes the vivid uniqueness of the Street Fighter characters that drew me into the game as a kid. They have unique voicelines and interactions based on their lore relationships; they say useful things audible only to the players they matter to, like “Look out behind you!”

Though frenetic, Overwatch’s visuals and HUD read extremely clearly. Enemy heroes are outlined in red, and their voicelines and footsteps are markedly louder than your allies’. There’s no minimap, but you can pinpoint your friends through walls based on little blue arrows over their heads. With a chatwheel, you can quickly access a tactical commands. Markers on the ground delineate important zones and pathways.

Perhaps most importantly for me, given my background in MOBA games, is the lack of any true snowball effect in Overwatch. There is no leveling up, no XP, no gold, no gear. Every player has access to all the same resources, barring skill, and this makes a comeback always possible. Maps are clearly designed to allow dramatic comebacks, with chokepoints becoming increasingly defensible as they near the finish line. When you can’t break a line, you can briefly wait for your team to respawn and regroup, which rarely takes more than 10 seconds, or you can swap out your hero to attempt new techniques. Unlike my hundreds of wasted hours in unsurrenderable Dota 2 losses, a match of Overwatch rarely exceeds 10 minutes, within which time, anything can happen. You can always fight for overtime or try something new; you can always have fun.


Overwatch releases May 24th for PC, PS4, and XBox One.

SLAPDASH - 60 MINUTES WITH DEVIL DAGGERS

Personally, I enjoy the aesthetic of the upcoming Doom game, set to release May.13.2016, and yes that's a Friday the 13th. Good one id Software, a bit campy but what else would you expect? The impression that the latest trailer left me with is that id Software is upholding the core values from the dawn of the Doom series. The original games, Doom, and Doom 2 focused on frantic circle strafing run and gun action in big open hell-scapes teaming with heaps of demons, big fuck off guns, flaming skulls and color coated key cards. As opposed to the bland corridor heavy space station shooter they gave us in Doom 3. The one constant being the oppressive atmosphere. In our current age of gaming, the Doom reboot looks like it could be a welcome change from the heavily scripted 'on rails' set piece shooters that clog the digital landscape and dominate much of the market. That being said, I cant help but wonder how it will be received by today’s gamers who grew up on COD and Battlefield. Simply put, developers aren't really making those shooters anymore. The FPS market has been dripping with carefully constructed blockbuster movie-esque titles for so long, the current generation of FPS players could very well balk at the simplistic, over the top style of game play that Doom is traditionally famous for. If only there were some way for the new breed of gamers to test the waters without having to dive in headfirst….

Enter Devil Daggers.

Devils daggers is a $5, “endless” first person shooter, set in a what is assumed to be a small infinite pitch black plane of someones own personal hell. I put quotation marks around 'endless' because no one has survived much past the 8 minute mark. It could have an ending, though I sincerely doubt it. And it doesn't really matter, as the goal is to stay alive as long as possible, and the average player (myself included) usually peaks at about 45-60 seconds for the first hour or two. Why so difficult? Well, the foes are as agitated as they are lethal, and much like a bad burrito from Chipotle, they can seal your fate quickly, with just one erroneous decision.

This shit was cutting edge in 1994!

This shit was cutting edge in 1994!

Devil Daggers' core mechanic is circle-strafing fast paced first person shooting, and it feels incredibly fluid. This is due partly to the fact that the games engine and art design is very old school and strikingly similar to a higher resolution version of the original quake, albeit with slightly more complex visuals. This allows most PC's to easily run the game at 60+ frames per second, which is key, as everyone on the leader boards is theoretically on the same playing field regardless of the rig they have. Devil Daggers' descent into madness starts in a dark room with a lone dagger floating in front of you. Once you take hold of your basic weapon it multiplies, streams of red daggers spew from your hand, immediately plunging the user into dubious peril. The daggers can either be shot in short bursts, like a pump-action shotgun or can be spit out in a steady, viscous stream like shooting the Devils' sandblaster.

As you begin to acclimate yourself to the oppresive surroundings, it becomes obvious you are walking on a small plane of stone or concrete, with a sudden drop-off around the edge that will send you plunging into dark nothingness with one misstep. Then, suddenly you hear a sound, it's coming from behind you – a gurgling, sinister spawning noise that could only mean that terrible is on its way. Abruptly, as you try to focus on the area the sound came from, a spire forms out of nowhere and releases a series of skulls and demon heads into the dark, and will continue to do so, until you erase it from existence by shooting at its rotating weak spot. Then another will form, and another and so on and so on. As time goes on things get more and more hectic with different enemies spawning in random locations at preset timestamps. The key to survival seems to be in directing your focus on the spawning spires, while at the same time managing the wave of floating skulls and demon heads chasing you down, but that knowledge itself will only get you so far. The game play feels as fluid as it looks, and you are always just a quick tap of the R key away from an instant retry, which really supports the “just one more game” feeling you are left with after any given run.

Certain enemies drop gems that power up your weapon when killed, allowing you to spit thicker, faster and more powerful streams of magical daggers as the frenzied action carries on. These power ups are very important not only to your progression past that elusive 60 second mark, but to your confidence as well. They will help you to dispose of the waves of enemies with greater ease, allowing you to free your focus to deal with more pertinent demonic apparitions. Like, say, the giant evil spider that sucks up your treasured power gems before you can get to them, or perhaps the twisted, flying Ogopogo-like entities that swoop through the air with equal parts grace and death lust... all while the super spires keep launching skulls for you to fend off … Yeah, she's a bitch, but its that kind of addictive action that keeps me in front of the screen for much longer than I originally intended to be. 

This game will have you seeing red.... often... 

This game will have you seeing red.... often... 

If the early sales performance of Devil Daggers is any indication, the millennial crowd might just be interested in the style of game play after all. In its first 5 days, Devil Daggers has over 12,000 copies “sold” on steam through world of mouth alone. That's a strong start, especially in this day in age. Though difficult, this game is immensely rewarding in the same way that arcade shooters have been since the inception of the genre, with shooters like Robotron 2000 and Smash TV, with a wonderful first person twist. I can confidently say that Devil daggers is the love child of Doom, Quake and Geometry wars in the best possible way (video game relationships are complicated, okay?). And if that intrigues you, I suggest you pick it up.

Go to hell, have fun.

Devil daggers is out now on steam. 

Once you beat this score (you will) your better than me

Once you beat this score (you will) your better than me

 

----------------------------------------THIS JUST IN: TRISTAN BREAKS KEVINS SCORE!--------------------------------------------------

Sorry pal, i gotta say this game jacks my heart rate to an unhealthy level and i love it! It is as you said: very Intense and rewarding.

I guess i am better than Kevin...

I guess i am better than Kevin...

Oh sheeit son! i did it again!

----------AND AGAIN! I'm not sure I can do that again though. So intense; had to calm down after this one. Hands were shaking a bit heh.  

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