The Final Dakar
Jun 16, 2014 02:10 PM
With the Alpha wrapping up, I was commanded to give my impressions. Thoughts below.
First off, this is an alpha in name only. The level of polish is impressive, even if it's been in development 3 years. I think I only ran into one bug in my short time this weekend. The graphics are pretty, if not spectacular, and the frame-rate was solid. The sound design is superb - a couple of time I followed the sounds of someone in battle and as soon as I had line-of-sight the sound cleared up from being muffled to being sharp and poignant. Very, very smooth.
The game does reek of Halo. From the AI Ghost which is basically a redesigned Monitor, to the flood-like hive, or the setting of a broken-down Earth. I'm a little surprised at how similar it is. You'd think they'd have strayed a little further from what they know.
The double-jump is, of course, fun. Between it and Titanfall I'm dubbing double-jump the go-to FPS feature of this gen. The sprint feels a little sluggish, probably because you can't dash forward the way you can upward. You can't reload while sprinting which coming from BF is maddening. A lot of unintentionally cancelled reloads.
The areas are pretty big. Sort of empty in the early going, aside from AI spawns. Don't know if that's missing content. The AI respawns too frequently, leaving you constantly clearing them treading paths you just crossed. Considering there are less players on a map than on an MMO this is confounding.
The portion of the ma available in the alpha was quite generous and its inferred this is only a small slice of the game. There were also areas holding far stronger enemies, implying that you may not quite level too far above an area to make it useful.
The mission part of the game was surprisingly shallow – it seems to repeat missions easily, and worse it sends you chasing through areas to pick new ones up – which then require you to backtrack a good deal. A lot of walking for no good reason. Fast travel would underscore how useless it is. The missions themselves were also incredibly shallow; Standard MMO fair: Kill so many X, kill x to try and farm y, go to point A and scan/search it (this takes literally less than two seconds. walking is the biggest timesink).
Outside the missions are group events. These feel much cooler as they happen more randomly, involve the entire server and have a grand scale. On the downside, it seemed there was only one that occurred, in only 1 of the 3 areas, and it was a massive bullet sponge. I compared it to Zelda: In Zelda you have to defeat a boss my exploiting his weak point to get crit opportunities and then inflicting damage three times. In this you pour bullets into the weakpoint a lot of times, get the crit opportunity, try to milk it using a power weapon, etc., then rinse and repeat a lot more than three times times. Also, the guy can swat you like a fly with one hit. It's exciting once or twice before it becomes a chore. Also, there's a time limit, because those always make gameplay more fun.
Now, I'm not entirely clear on the game mode differences, but there seemed to be campaign, explore, and strike. Confusing things, if I wanted to Explore, I could only load to one secific map even though I could explore all the maps. Loading into another map would automatically put me in a fireteam with two other players. Further, once in a fireteam, there seems to be no way for your friends to join your local instance. Having played CoD and then moved to BF, three players is a woefully small amount of people and having expanded my friends list, its frustrating to have to split up into smaller groups. I suppose they think it would be too easy. Still on strike there were instances of taking 30-60 minutes on just one mission, because it was bullet spongy grinding. Just imagine some Halo level mission, you'll probably be close enough.
Speaking of difficulty, the enemies are less than impressive to deal with. This is partly because I'm used to dealing with real people who use tactics and have predictable health. In this you get all the greatest hits of enemies that know your presence when you're behind them, dodge the moment before you pull the trigger (and do so in a manner you can't replicate as a player), and eat bullets for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Further, as far as I can tell there's no assassination for getting behind, which is also BS.
Enemy variety is pretty good, even in the limited alpha. Multiple factions, multiple foes, multiple weapons.
Transitioning to weapons, that's where the game shines. For those of you who have played an MMO, there's two thins you always focus on: Skills and equipment. This game is no different. The limited alpha offered a taste of skills (though really anything before level 4 is more gimped than the higher levels being super-powered). Equipment drops I saw were white and green (uncommon) some with some type of elemental bonus (Yes, Borderlands). Oddly, they decided to hide unlocks for weapons behind some kind of usage, and one of the upgrades is just a flat damage bonus (why?). Armor can give stat bonuses. Limited to only 8 levels options were limited but the damage difference between common and uncommon weapons were quite noticeable. There's also a good amount of weapon types within the classes (pulse, scout, auto), (shotgun, sniper, I forget), (rocket launcher, LMG). This was basically all I yearned for after I capped out. Weapon handling wasn't that great, but typical for a bungie game, strong recoil, mediocre accuracy. I read there's no difference in accuracy between hip-fire and ADS (ADS also hides the radar, making you quite vulnerable).
The multi is nothing to write home about. 6 v 6, two maps (one loaded with annoying vehicles), and a terrible game mode (domination) that required you to be practically making out with the flag to capture it. Ammo for your secondary only spawns intermittently, and even less for your power weapon. There's discussion as to whether your class powers are OP in multi. No destructibility. Oh, and of course, there's Halo jumping (now with an extra-jump! Let me kill myself!)
Verdict? If you're looking for Halo on the PS4, this is probably for you. If you value co-op gameplay over multiplayer this is for you. If you tend to play in small groups rather than large gatherings, this is for you. It's a beautifully well-built game, but the depth seems shallow and outside of co-op gameplay I'm not sure loot farming is really enough to make it worthwhile (let alone worth the cost of entry). Will have to see what new features they unveil in the lead-up to release that make the game deeper and more worthy of its price tag.