Sunday, November 13, 2011

id Tech 4's Open Source Release Imminent

This is old news but Rock, Paper Shotgun has released an article discussing the imminent open source release of id Tech 4. For those of you who are in the dark, id Tech 4 is the game engine that powered Doom 3, the first game to have specular highlighting and bump mapping, elevating PC gaming to a whole new level.

Image taken from the id Tech 4 Wikipedia page

Imagine: freeware PC first-person shooters with Doom 3 graphics. The engine may be ancient now but this release will surely open the creative floodgates of indie developers.

The link after the jump.

>>>Read the article about the PC game engine release here

>>>Click here to

Thursday, October 13, 2011

How to Solve the RAGE Texture Streaming Pop-in Bug

[UPDATED: October 15, 2011]

id's latest PC FPS game was an unplayable mess the first time I started it--the screen only displayed bands of color. I quickly fixed this problem by quitting the PC game, closing all other applications, and restarting RAGE. The second try produced an incrementally better result: I could play the first-person shooter but the stutter was so bad (despite FRAPS displaying a rock steady 60 frames per second). I also got my first taste of the RAGE texture streaming pop-in bug. After a bit of researching about the problem and tweaking I finally solved the texture pop-in glitch.

This RAGE Texture Streaming Pop-in Bug tweak guide worked for several people. Click the pic. (You need to check other parameters though; see below.)

The solution after the jump.

[DISCLAIMER: As each PC configuration is unique, I cannot guarantee that what worked for me will work for you. I cannot give you tech support if something goes wrong. Follow the steps at your own risk.]

>>>See my "RAGE PC Review" article HERE

[Guide too long for you? CTRL+F for "SUMMARY." It's best that you read the entirety of this RAGE tweak guide though as you might have a more powerful PC and might want to place higher values.]

My initial search for a solution led me to Nvidia's "How To Unlock Rage's High Resolution Textures With A Few Simple Tweaks" article. In it, it details how to minimize the RAGE texture streaming problem. It also laid in direction on how to maximize the graphics. Seeing that my PC only has these specs:

CPU: Core 2 e7400 2.80Ghz
Motherboard: MSI P45 Neo3-FR
Memory: Kingston 2Gb DDR2-800
Videocard: 9800GT

I realized that they were just above RAGE's minimum PC requirements. I then decided to use the guide to tone down my graphics in a bid to reduce the stutter and the texture streaming problem.

I know. It's maddening.

The guide discusses how to make a configuration file in RAGE. It lays down instructions how to convert a Notepad file into a .cfg file that users should then place in:


For a system with video card that has 1.5GB RAM, users should be able to use RAGE'S 8K textures and should put this in the .cfg file:

vt_pageimagesizeuniquediffuseonly2 8192
vt_pageimagesizeuniquediffuseonly 8192
vt_pageimagesizeunique 8192
vt_pageimagesizevmtr 8192
vt_maxaniso 4
image_anisotropy 4

You should read that guide first and then come back here to see what I did with the outline parameters.

Done reading? Good. Let's proceed.

Seeing that my video card has only 1GB of memory, I opted to use 2/3 of what was suggested (8192 X (2/3) = 5461.33). The nearest multiple of 1024 to 5461.33 is 5120. I used that and replaced the first four lines with:

vt_pageimagesizeuniquediffuseonly2 5120
vt_pageimagesizeuniquediffuseonly 5120
vt_pageimagesizeunique 5120
vt_pageimagesizevmtr 5120

However, the saved games wouldn't load so I reduced the figure further to 4096, which now works for me. [UPDATE: I've now gone back to using 8192. See "SUMMARY" below for further updates.]

Now for the other parameters.


In RAGE's October 8 update, the game's developers made available several Video options that were previously hidden. These are Vsync, Texture Cache, and Anisotropic Filter. The last renders the lines:

vt_maxaniso 4
image_anisotropy 4

obsolete. (I set the Texture Cache option to Low and tested the game with and without the above lines. There was no difference.)

I also disabled GPU Transcode and removed the following lines from my Rageconfig file (I had previously included these):

vt_useCudaTranscode 1
vt_cudaBudget 10.5

After deleting the above, the game became noticeably smoother; turning around didn't cause me to grimace anymore.

Previously, it was as painful as having been plopped on your ass by a rifle round.

Finally, regarding this line:

"Automatically adjust vt_maxPPF based on the number of available cores."

I find it dubious that the game now automatically detects your system's cores; adding the line:

vt_maxPPF 8

for my dual-core system really upped RAGE's performance level. If it automatically detected my CPU has having two cores, why the performance increase when I added that line?


This used to be my final configuration:

vt_pageimagesizeuniquediffuseonly2 4096
vt_pageimagesizeuniquediffuseonly 4096
vt_pageimagesizeunique 4096
vt_pageimagesizevmtr 4096
vt_maxPPF 8

Following a fellow RAGE player's discovery (Trooper321) that this tweak guide allowed him to play the game with 8K textures, I followed suit and discovered that my system can run the game with those textures. (Nvidia should have been clearer about which cards can run 8K textures---my video card only has 1GB of video RAM.) Here's my final configuration:

vt_pageimagesizeuniquediffuseonly2 8192
vt_pageimagesizeuniquediffuseonly 8192
vt_pageimagesizevmtr 8192
vt_maxPPF 8

(See Trooper321's RAGE tweak guide HERE)

Copy-paste that into a Notepad file and save it as a .cfg file with the filename "RageConfig" (without the quotes). I'd suggest you play it safe and test the 4K textures first. When everything runs smooth, you can then scale up to the 8192 value. It should, of course, look like this:

The file should be placed here:

Two things though:

1. I left the root directory blank as you could have installed Steam in a directory other than Program Files

2. As has been mentioned, your PC may be more powerful than mine; work your way up the parameter values and see what works for you.

I've also made the following adjustments in the Nvidia Control Panel:

If you're using Windows XP, I would also suggest that you follow the tweaks outlined in Black Viper's Windows XP Super Tweaks. The Indexing Services tweak could also help your RAGE be more stutter-free.

My settings (currently not using anti-aliasing; the game doesn't seem to like Windows XP. Setting AA to 2x results in a barely noticeable stutter that hurts the eyes nonetheless. I'll be purchasing another 2GB of RAM and see if it will help):

Patch of Tech-PC also suggested that upping the Texture Cache shouldn't present a problem for my rig.

Before applying the above, I was dismally playing the game at 640 resolution. Now I can run the game with my screen using the 1024 resolution option. Hopefully this tweak guide will solve the RAGE texture streaming bug for you. Textures popping in should be a thing of the past.

Finally, below is a gameplay video. It got compressed twice so apologies for the quality. The vid also loses audio and video synchronization midway; that should teach me not to play games while the video editor is running.

And no, the video isn't messed up; the character here is dangling by his ankles. ;)

>>>Click here to

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Warhammer 40K: Space Marine Review

[Updated Dec 23, 2011]

I first heard of Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine in some video game forum that I can’t remember. My first reaction to the news was: “Relic Entertainment is moving away from its highly successful RTS line? It’s a hoax!” And for a time I did think it was. The Dawn of War series is a successful PC strategy product line. Its games have pulled off what dozens of Warhammer 40,000 games before failed to do—draw in legions of fans and newcomers alike. For Relic Entertainment to wander off from this unprecedented trend was, for me, an odd decision.

Fast forward a couple or so years later, and I just finished Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine on the Normal and Hard difficulty levels. In both playthroughs, I had to grudgingly admit that Relic Entertainment did pour in an awesome amount of effort to bringing the “hoax” to life. It is a solid game in more ways than one. However, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine does have its flaws. This Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine review, made by a fan, discusses the pros and cons of the game. More than a review, this article also discusses what Relic Entertainment should have done to more fully immerse Space Marine players into the Warhammer 40K game universe.

"No more micromanagement! Hallelujah!"

The full review after the jump. 

Warhammer 40K: Space Marine puts you in the role of Captain Titus, an Ultramarine who leads one of the numerous strike forces tasked with staving off an Ork invasion in one of the Imperium’s forgeworlds. For most of the game though, the only Space Marines you see are Leandros and Sidonus, two characters with contrasting personalities. The former is a newly christened marine who insists on following rules to the letter while the latter is a grizzled veteran. Though at first you might think that these dissimilar personalities would introduce enough conflict to the story to make it fascinating, the game will disappoint players in this aspect as the interplay among the three is so bland as to make it uninteresting. Thankfully though, the action is more than enough to keep you glued to the screen.

While it’s immediately apparent that the developers meant for Space Marine to be a melee-oriented game, they haven’t left out the shooter aspect in it. In Hard mode, you would have to thin out the ranks a bit before thundering in with a chainsword, power axe or a warhammer. You first start out though, with a large nondescript knife and a bolter but these get swapped out later for better weapons. There are four types of bolters in the game and each is a clunky but solid-looking boxy affair. I like how Games Workshop has brought out the “forgotten technology” feel of the Imperium’s weaponry. The upgraded bolters are the very epitome of that design direction: huge, unwieldy, but their shots sound powerful; firing them feels like you’re really dishing out rounds that can punch out exit wounds the size of plates. Later in the game, you will get your hands on two types of plasma-based weaponry, two types of sniper weapons (the lascannon and the stalker bolter), the powerful melta gun (a short-range shotgun type of weapon that fires a plume of superheated substance) and the vengeance launcher. The last is what struck me as odd; its smooth red-and-silver body looks as though it belongs in a Quake game rather than the Warhammer 40K universe. I did some research and I was right—before the game, the vengeance launcher—which fires grenades that can be remote detonated—is non-canon. However, rumor has it that Games Workshop will be making it as.

"What do you mean the shoulder plates make me look fat?"

The shooter element of Space Marine is only a secondary aspect though—melee is where it’s really at. Like most hack-and-slash games nowadays, successive swings form a combo and Relic Entertainment’s game is no different. Click four times and Titus will form a four-hit combo that ends with a devastating swipe that sweeps in a wide arc, decapitating most foes. Click F (the default button in the PC version) after one to three attacks and Titus ends with a move that stuns enemies. Stunned foes immediately display a QTE (quick time event) icon above their heads and if you press E (the default execution button in the PC version), Titus makes a brutal coup de grace, killing them. What makes this whole thing unique is that every Execution replenishes Titus’ lifebar with a considerable amount of health. However, Executing an enemy triggers a rather lengthy 2.5-second animation and in that time that you’re busy tearing apart an Ork’s head or burying a power axe into a Chaos Space Marine, his fellows will be busy trying to rip your armor apart. This mechanic allows for frenzied action (apparent in the Normal and Hard difficulty levels)—should you Execute an enemy and hope the animation finishes and heals you up before his fellows kill you or should you continue cleaving away and hope you finish them all before your flagging health hits zero? This design decision makes for hectic action sequences as you roll, dash, cleave, Execute, and shoot the endless hordes the game throws at you. Quick thinking and quicker reflexes define the core action of Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine.

As impressive and addictive as this is (and it IS!) some people may be bothered by two things:

1. As implied above, there is no way to cancel an Execution animation. An ill-timed Execution could mean your death and not the enemy’s. I’ve always believed that one of the elements of what makes a video game addictive is its level of control. I’ve discussed this in how Area 51, a freeware PC first-person shooter, handles grenades in your inventory. Space Marine hits this same problem with its Execution system; you simply do not have control once the animation starts.

2. Seeing that the combo system is limited and that Titus can’t jump, the PC game’s melee system basically is a one-trick pony: you dash in, whale away at everything and if the enemy eats away your armor and start to chip away at your health, you start to search out the best way to Execute something without exposing yourself needlessly to enemy attacks. And while this is addicting, it could have used some more variety shown in other melee combat games like say, Darksiders.

Rooster Teeth gave their Red vs Blue series an apocalyptic twist.

Speaking of one-trick affairs, this is Space Marine’s biggest flaw; the game basically pits you against wave upon wave of enemies while slogging your way through its levels. Though there are sequences that do break up this repetitiveness, I wish the developers put in more of these. For example, there’s a part where you get to man an Imperial Guard Valkyrie’s heavy bolter turret as you soared through the skies. It’s a very entertaining sequence. Why they didn’t put in two or more segments akin to it is beyond me. Rolling across a vast landscape in a Land Raider for example, or fighting alongside a Dreadnought that shakes the ground every time it takes a step would have been awesome. Complaints aside though, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine is definitely one of the better melee games I’ve played in quite a while. It’s also the first one to render this many enemies to take on; the first time you see a wave of gretchin, bomb squigs, and Slugga and Shoota Boyz, you can’t help but be impressed of what Relic Entertainment has done here.

Unlike several hack-and-slash games, Space Marine has a dearth of puzzles—which is actually a good thing. The Warhammer 40,000 universe is all about war, bloodshed, and wanton genocide. Introducing puzzles meant for pointy-eared, effeminate, sword-and-wooden-shield-toting elves would have only watered down the action. This is an action game through and through. This is about killing aliens and purging the unclean.

An action game, no matter how good its mechanics are, would suffer significantly if its artificial intelligence is lacking. So how does Space Marine’s AI fare? Truth to tell, it’s unimpressive but it gets the job done. Warhammer 40,000’s Orks are Orks; they’re bloodthirsty creatures, shouting “WAAAGH!” wherever they go. The game’s AI serves this role well: Orks, except for the Shoota Boyz, invariably charge at you en masse. Shoota Boyz just hang back and well, shoot. They skip several steps sideways when you shoot at them but aside from this, they just stand there and take whatever damage you dish out. Nothing impressive there but it definitely gets the job done.

Ah uzed to be a weirdboy like youz but then me knee took a warhammer...

What really bothers me is the part where you get to encounter Chaos Space Marines. Most of these will be carrying ranged weaponry and so initially you won’t find anything amiss with their AI. However, as the game progresses and you encounter more of these, it will begin to dawn on you that they really don’t give the impression that these are former elite troopers of the Imperium. While they are more mobile than the Orks—they’ll actually run for cover—they just don’t act like elite troopers. F.E.A.R.’s Armacham Elite do a better job at this. Chaos Space Marines wielding melee weapons behave much like Ork Slugga Boyz, adding to the disappointment.

Your companions fare no better. There were only a few times in the game that I felt I was fighting with a squad. Leandros and Sidonus behave like slow-moving invincible turrets with low-caliber weaponry. They can still kill enemies but they do it at a significantly slower pace than you. The Space Marines are supposed to be a close-knit cadre of elite killing machines. Except for a few segments here and there, this game doesn’t give you the feeling that you’re fighting with coordinated battle squad.

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine’s boss battles are few and far between and what handful there are are nothing to be impressed about. In fact, the last boss fight is a QTE fest, something that, while realistic (you couldn’t realistically go toe-to-toe with the last boss considering what he is), left me a bit disappointed. This is something that bothers me; Games Workshop had two decades to expand and hone their lore. Relic’s failure to capitalize on that rich a storyline perplexes me much like Day One Studios’ palpable indifference to some of the deeper aspects of FEAR’s. (See my FEAR 3 review here.) Giving Warhammer 40K: Space Marine more boss fights and enemy types would have deepened the game’s immersion greatly. If they didn’t have the time, casual references to the other races would have sufficed; an abandoned Eldar temple here, an uttered line about the Tau there and it would have immersed the player more into the Warhammer 40,000 universe. As it is, Warhammer 40K: Space Marine barely skims the surface of what Games Workshop has created.

Lascannon to the head: exorcism, Games Workshop style

To continue this line of discussion, the very first Dawn of War game featured Orks and then Chaos in the course of its singleplayer campaign. Do all Warhammer 40,000 games have to feature the popular races all the time? Why not Chaos and Tau? Or Chaos and Tyranids? Orks and Dark Eldar? While this borders on nitpicking, this trend of spotlighting Orks and Chaos in the first game of every Warhammer 40K PC game series is starting to become formulaic.

Also where are the awesome quotes? It would have been cool if Relic gave players the chance to do taunts by pushing a hotkey or two. Bellowing “Show me what passes for fury among your misbegotten kind!” in multiplayer would have been awesome.


[Note: I will provide a separate review for the Exterminatus and the CTF game modes in the coming weeks.]

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine does have a multiplayer component that’s split into two modes: Seize Ground and Annihilation (basically Take and Hold and Team Deathmatch, respectively). While the two modes are very entertaining, they don’t have much in the way of what makes the game appealing: to be an elite, nearly invincible supersoldier who can take on waves of monstrosities by the lonesome. In the multiplayer component, you’re up against other space marines, who have the same hit points and armor values as you and who—needless to say—are significantly better than the singleplayer campaign’s AI opponents. This devolves the MP component into just another shooter as both sides jockey for flanking positions to optimize firing arcs. (While the Assault Marine class is a melee-oriented one, the action is just different from the singleplayer campaign. Because you’re up against similar Joes, here, you’re just another ordinary dude who would seek cover every time you find yourself in a situation where you are badly outgunned.)

I've nothing to say about this screenshot except that I'm awesome.

The game’s archaic weapon designs also don’t improve matters; Space Marines move slowly even when they’re running and bolters aren’t the most efficient weapons if you figure in rate of fire, handling, and accuracy. To make matters worse, the Assault Marine class is somewhat overpowered compared to the other classes. Find yourself in a situation where there’s a lot of open terrain and you can be sure that in the next eight or so seconds, death will come at you from above. Assault marines can, of course, be countered, but it takes expertise to successfully evade one.

It should be brought to light that there is no server browser; the matchmaking system is peer-to-peer. This might prove problematic for people who are living in regions where there are too few Space Marine players.

Taking all the above into account, the game’s multiplayer is great but it’s not something I would play every day for weeks on end. (It’s being actively patched though so things might change in the future.)

The game’s other (technical) aspects are impressive but not overly so. Below is a breakdown.


The amount of particles Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine throws at you is impressive; Orks erupt in globules and buckets of blood, dust swirls away at swings of your melee weapons, and plasma rounds detonate with such ferocity that you can almost smell the ozone.

On the other side of the coin, closer inspection reveals the graphics to be inferior to games that use bleeding edge game engines. Also there isn’t much in the way of bump mapping. As a result, the cutscenes strike me as being too CGI-ish. They’re not cartoony but they definitely don’t raise the bar.

Red carpet cleaning Imperium style

The game’s environs are, however, convincing; forgeworld Graia shows signs that it has been recently ravaged by an invading force. There’s no signs of civilians though, something that greatly detracts from the whole picture. Also, the game could have benefitted from a more diverse level design; Space Marine only has basically two: the surface, which features dust-covered urban rubble and canyons; and facilities, which feature sterile surroundings that are predominantly gray. The latter are relatively unimpressive; while the surface levels feature a more vibrant color scheme and dust that get kicked up in battles, the facility levels don’t have anything going on.


Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine’s audio gets the job done and more. The Orks’ “WAAAGH!!,” their death screams and shouts of agony, your chainsword’s keening wail, all these give players a cathartic and immersive experience. The music also shifts to a more ominous tone whenever you get embroiled in a skirmish, adding to the immersion.

Relic’s effort to bring the Warhammer 40,000 universe into the hack-and-slash genre is a success. While the game stubbornly sticks to its core action mechanics from beginning to end, there’s no other game that gives you the opportunity to wade into seemingly endless waves of Orks and Chaos Space Marines.

Lock and load soldier of the Imperium—in Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, your belief that the “Emperor protects” will be severely tested.

Half a league, half a league onward! And into an outpost held by a solid wall of Imperial Guardsmen scurried the orks and squigs.


Tilt: 7.5 - The game shipped with a flicker bug that has since been fixed. The storyline presents a premise that isn’t something to be impressed about. The developers didn’t delve too much into the rich material that the Warhammer 40K universe has. Overall, though, the game is a fairly hiccup-free experience that’s worth checking out.

Gameplay: 8.0 – Fluid combat that’s only tarnished by the game’s stubbornness in sticking to the same core mechanics from beginning to end. Warhammer 40,000 though, presents the players with all the brutality that the Games Workshop codices envision the far future to be. Multiplayer is weaker relative to the singleplayer component but it still delivers.

Graphics: 8.0 – It’s definitely not bleeding edge but what you find here is definitely impressive. Blood spray every which way, debris scatter in the heat of battle, and hulking adversaries paint the events ravaging forgeworld Graia with a realistic intensity. It’s just marred by the console-ish feel of the game’s engine.

Audio: 8.0 – Nothing to complain about the audio; meaty bolter reports, ear-shattering death screams, and martial themes really place you in the thick of battle. Vox-casters though would have lent the game a better score; SMs sound more awesome with them.

Replayability: 7.5 (Note: This will be adjusted soon as I release my review about the two new game modes.) A limited Easter Egg system in the form of digging up what happened to the forgeworld by recovering servoskulls encourage players to replay the campaign a couple of times. The game though, is a boon to those just simply seeking a cathartic experience; hacking away at hosts of adversaries never gets old. Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine’s first two multiplayer modes are bland affairs; they’re not something you would want to play again and again as much as the leading multiplayer games today.

A chainsword--Jason Voorhees wants one for Christmas

Overall: 7.8

>>>Click here to

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Super Monday Night Combat Going Free to Play

I just recently heard that Super Monday Night Combat is going free to play. While I haven't gotten any specific details on the sequel's features, it's (needless to say) going to draw heavily from Monday Night Combat, a class-based, PC third-person shooter that fuses multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) elements (most notably DotA's) into the core gameplay.

Here's a gameplay video I made myself:

Links to other downloadable freeware PC shooters after the jump.

>>>Click here for more freeware downloadable PC first-person shooters (FPS)

>>>Click here to

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Downloadable Free PC Full Version Third-Person Shooter CrimeCraft

More and more developers nowadays are considering the microtransaction model in powering their ventures in the video games industry. Vogster Entertainment has just launched its third-person shooter CrimeCraft on Steam as a downloadable full version freeware PC game.

While the game may not have the appeal of free FPS that have jumped in the Call of Duty bandwagon, it does have several innovative twists, some of the most prominent of which are its atmosphere and background. CrimeCraft is the very first free to play MMMO shooter that has a post-holocaust atmosphere, replete with gameplay modes that revolve around gang wars. While some may say it's a Fallout clone, I've the feeling this shooter game is more of a Grand Theft Auto type sans the sandbox component.

I might try this game out in the weeks ahead.

More free to play full version PC shooters after the jump.

>>>Click here to see more downloadable free PC full version shooters

>>>Click here to

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Deus Ex: New Vision Graphics (Textures) Modification Pack Released

I guess I started playing Deus Ex at the right time---after four years of development Deus Ex: New Vision, a graphics mod pack that overhauls the first-person shooter's textures, has been released.

Znokiss---the gamer responsible for gathering all the graphical enhancement mods for Deus Ex---has even updated his "Ultimage Tutorial" for the Steam version of the PC game. The downloads he has supplied includes Deus Ex: New Vision. The tutorials also packages everything so as to be user-friendly; all one has to do is to follow the step-by-step instructions that Znokiss has supplied.

The graphical overhaul the tutorial brings to the game is nothing short of amazing.

The link to the tutorial---and my own tweaks to the FPS-RPG hybrid---after the jump.

>>>This link leads to the Deus Ex Graphics (Textures) Modification Pack tutorial tutorial. It also contains tweaks that I've added.

>>>Click here to

Sunday, July 24, 2011

League of Legends - Kayle Rework in Upcoming Patch

So I just saw this:

Now that I've completed my rune page (in my second account; I didn't migrate my first), the developers of the freeware strategy game decide to rework her. With Righteous Fury now enjoying a bumped up base damage but suffering from an AP ratio nerf, the Magic Pen runes I've invested in aren't as potent anymore.

Still I'm quite glad they made this. I've been a Kayle player ever since I started playing this freeware PC RTS and my complaint with her last rework was that she was so dependent on her teammates to carry for her early to mid-game. Unlike other heroes like Tryndamere or Rammus who can still turn the tide of a match even when their teammates suck, Kayle just couldn't do anything to own the field by her lonesome in the early stages. This rework should fix that.

League of Legends tips and strategies after the jump.

>>>See my League of Legends Tips and Strategies article HERE

>>>Click here to

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Deus Ex: Human Revolution Deviating Gameplay Types Trailer

I've been doing a Deus Ex marathon in the hopes that I can finish both Deus Ex and Deus Ex: Invisible War before the 3rd installment in the PC first-person shooter series comes out. The thing I love about the Deus Ex games is their deviating gameplay scheme---each of their levels offer different ways for a player to beat it, whether it be silent takedowns or a full-on guns blazing approach.

Here's a trailer:

"The level design in deus ex human revolution support many different approaches."

This PC FPS game is going to be awesome.

Hopefully, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is going to be the second game I will review. Imbacore's taking a new direction; I'm going to review modern, retail games too, not just freeware PC games.

For the first of these, see my FEAR 3 review.

>>>Click here to

Monday, July 18, 2011

Deus Ex 1 Graphics (Textures) Modification Pack

[UPDATE: August 17, 2014: Here's a more updated guide: YouTube: Deus Ex One Mod Tweak Guide How to Improve Graphics with Better Textures 

You should still read the guide below as it contains some parameters you might want to tweak.]

[UPDATED: August 16, 2011]

[UPDATE: The Deus Ex: New Vision graphics mod has been released. The link below includes this updated version.]

So I just installed Deus Ex in the hopes that I can finish both Deus Ex: Game of the Year Edition and Deus Ex: Invisible War before Deus Ex: Human Revolution hits the shelves. This PC first-person shooter's graphics, is, of course, sub-par with today's standards so I hunted around for Deus Ex 1 graphics mod packs.

I found this:

Znokiss' Ultimage Tutorial (Graphic and texture mods for the Steam version of Deus-Ex)

[Warning: The preceding link takes you away from this site. Furthermore, the above Deus Ex texture graphics mod pack isn't mine. Install at your own risk.]

[Update: Some people have complained that the mod doesn't work. Installing the Visual C++ 2010 runtime fixes the problem.]

Before and after screenshots and my own tweaks to the PC texture mod after the jump.

The graphics bundle brings bloom and bump mapping to Deus Ex's obsolete engine but I think the gamma level is way too low. Also, the bump mapping and the saturation levels are overdone in my opinion:



I'm going to find a way to tone down the shadows, bump mapping, and saturation. Otherwise, I'll have to play without the ENB mod. Some of its effects are just too jarring for me.


Found the fix. According to Steam forum member SillyCon, you have to tweak several parameters in the enbseries.ini file. These are:




I also managed to find the parameters for the saturation and the bump mapping levels (which were too unrealistic for my tastes). These are:



The saturation parameters seem to only accept whole numbers so I settled for "1"s. A "-0.65" would have been more to my liking. A pity. (The higher the number the more saturated the colors become; setting "5"s results in a psychedelic show.)

I'll see tomorrow if I can solve the chrome effect. I find that shiny rock walls don't make for a good immersive experience.

>>>Click here to

Thursday, July 14, 2011

F.E.A.R. 3 Review - A Player's Feedback

When it was announced that Day One Studios was taking in John Carpenter and Steve Niles on their development team, I knew I had to get FEAR 3. Did Day One and these two horror masters create a PC shooter game that’s worthy of the PC first-person shooter franchise? This FEAR 3 review details what they did right and where they floundered.

A summary of my FEAR 3 review:

The good:

  • Innovative multiplayer features
  • Top-notch, solid first-person shooter experience
  • Guns sound just right
  • The "lean" system is back and has been improved
  • Story expands on the relationship between the Point Man and Paxton Fettel
  • AI has been improved relative to FEAR 2
  • Level designs are great but not phenomenal
  • Replica forces now (generally) look more like those in the first FEAR

The bad:
  • Singleplayer campaign is too short
  • A lot of plot loopholes
  • Multiplayer connectivity issues plague quite a handful of players
  • Shipped with a jitter bug (fixed)
  • Least scary of all the FEAR games
  • AI still inferior relative to FEAR 1
  • Bland graphics relative to today's standards
The FEAR 3 review after the jump.

Out of all the FEAR games, this latest installment to the PC horror shooter series had the most hype surrounding it. The developers touted new features such as “Divergent Co-op” and “generative scares.” And while these do bring innovative features to a genre swamped by derivative gameplay, it’s clear that their execution could have used a bit of tweaking here and there.

The biggest change I’ve noticed was that the game has been designed to be a multiplayer-centric game. The first time I saw the score page after I finished the first level, I was stupefied. The phrase “favorite son” appeared on the bottom portion of my screen. For a split second I had surreal visions of Engrish making its way into an American PC game developer. “Why is the game flashing ‘favorite son’?” I spluttered. Without spoiling anything, suffice to say I realized hours later that this would be an important part when playing a complete campaign playthrough with a friend.

And play with a friend you will, if you are to experience the full spectrum of gameplay options FEAR 3 offers. The Divergent Co-op system throws in a second player into the fray, one with abilities unique from the first’s. As everybody probably knows by now, that second character is Paxton Fettel, the first PC game’s antagonist. I don’t want to spoil how he managed to assume an incorporeal form but he’s now a ghost in the sequel. The Paxton Fettel player will be able to utilize a wide range of attacks. These are:

  • Psychic blasts
  • Possession
  • Telekinesis
  • A short-range attack that literally crushes enemies
These atypical methods of advancing through the game’s levels are what give the system its “Divergent” tag---while the Point Man player can run, gun, throw grenades, and activate bullet time, the second player can wield paranormal powers to help the first player. It’s just satisfying to experience Paxton Fettel levitate a soldier while the Point Man uses the vulnerable target as a wall to throw his grenade at, bombarding the hapless trooper’s teammates with shrapnel. Or the Point Man could aid a dying Fettel find refuge by engaging bullet time. While it also slows down the ghost, SloMo does buy time for the second player to get his bearings and run for the nearest cover.

Beam him up Scotty.

The other prominent feature this PC horror sequel touts is the “Generative Scares” system. Rather than scripted sequences, FEAR 3 scares players by generating random paranormal appearances.

Unfortunately the above features do introduce several problems. The “Divergent Co-op” and the “Favorite Son” systems necessitate that the campaign be short enough so that two players can finish a playthrough at a reasonable amount of time. There’s just little point in the latter if players make the campaign an on-and-off affair; chances are, later sessions will be played with different friends, making the system a detached, impersonal event. Thus, FEAR 3 is only 4-7 hours long, depending on the difficulty and the gameplay preferred by the participating players---players who prefer a run-and-gun style while playing on “Easy” should blaze through the campaign while tactically-inclined, cover-hugging players on “Insane” would beat the playthrough in 7-8 hours. Compared to its prequels, FEAR 3’s cut-down campaign is a jarring shock.

The “Generative Scares” system also suffers. While it does have its uses---I did jump a couple of times at unexpected sightings---I find that it is largely ineffective. It’s a cool feature but it's not as good as scripted events. Sure, scripted ones will lose their potency after one or two playthroughs but the generative scares are just too bland in my opinion; Alma appears beside you for a second or two and then vanishes. It’s creepy but not as frightening as a scripted event complete with a music clip and other sound effects.

To make a point, FEAR: Perseus Mandate was panned by several fans but it was scarier than FEAR 3:

To be effective in horror, one has to infuse a game with an element of uncertainty. When players realize that these sightings are just that, sightings, they soon lose their fear of them. To be honest, I was completely disappointed with all the John Carpenter-Steve Niles hype. As a “The Thing” fan, I expected much. I don’t know what happened. Maybe there was a miscommunication? Was it all hype? Ideas couldn’t be coded into the game? All I know is that sadly, this is by far, the least scary of all the FEAR games. (Except for the FEAR 2: Reborn DLC; that game didn’t even try to be scary.)

Even Paxton gives the game's horror aspects a thumbs-down

The horror in FEAR 3 suffered. This is one game where the line “don’t fix what isn’t broken” applies. Where are the voices? Paxton Fettel’s “What’s the first thing you remember?” and Harlan Wade’s “You will be a god among men” certainly lent the first game an ethereal, sinister tinge. Gone too are the trademark discordant piano chords. Why didn’t they implement those with the “generative scares”? Certainly, the jarring music would have made people jump.

Several major characters are missing too. This is another disappointing point. One would think the writer-director duo would have capitalized on the rich pedigree of the franchise but instead, they released the game with a plethora of loose ends. Let’s hope a slew of DLC gets released in the coming months to give the series a proper closure.

On a positive light, FEAR 3 does delve into the relationship between the Point Man and Paxton, bringing to light what happened between (and to) them before the first Syncronicity Event. This story direction surprised me; I didn’t expect that they would delve that far back into the canon. Kudos to Day One and Niles for this.

But what’s a FEAR 3 review without a discussion of the PC first-person shooter’s technical aspects?

First off, the audio. As has been mentioned in my FEAR 3 First Impressions review, I am very pleased with the gargantuan leaps Day One Studios has made regarding the weapons’ sound effects. FEAR 2’s SMG was such an aural nightmare that to this day, I still frown whenever I think about it. FEAR 2’s Andra submachine gun’s weak SFX really jars you from the experience. Fortunately, FEAR 3’s weapons sound just right; even its submachine gun feels powerful (while not being overly so).

The prison is one of the game's better levels.

FEAR 3 is also one solid shooter. While not as intense as the particle-heavy firefights in the first PC FPS, it does offer players a gameplay experience that’s several notches above its immediate prequel. The reintroduction of the lean mechanic certainly trumps FEAR 2’s gameplay.

My first FEAR 3 review already discussed that the lean mechanic has also been improved upon by the introduction of a Mass Effect/Gears of War cover system. With this, players can “snap” onto walls, crates, and boxes. They can then push the forward button (or any of the strafe buttons) to pop momentarily out from cover, squeeze a burst of fire, and then quickly duck back in. Day One Studio has also improved upon this aspect by introducing mechanics that allow players to:

  • Jump sideways into nearby cover
  • Vault over and advance
  • Vault over and immediately turn around, effectively taking cover on the other side. (This is useful if you find that the AI has outflanked you.)

Yes, FEAR 3’s AI knows how to flank again, thanks to some of the game’s level design that allows for such maneuvers. Though the AI is still significantly weaker than that of the first FEAR, this improvement is a very welcome one. Superior audio, competent AI, an innovative cover system----this FPS game does deliver an awesome first-person shooter experience that ranks right up there with some of the best ones.

There are however, flaws.

In an odd twist of design decision that’s anathema to the horror industry, Day One Studios has implemented a regenerative health system. I suppose it goes with the cover system---in order for a game with a cover system to be challenging, damage inflicted by enemies must be ramped up. Failing to do so would make the game a cakewalk for experienced players. This increased difficulty, in turn, entails that the developer employ a convenient way for players to replenish health. It’s a tricky situation that requires balance. In this regard, the shooter game’s developers stumbled----introducing a regenerative health system does away with the sense of imminent death that most horror shooter gamers love. This is also one aspect that takes away FEAR 3’s scare factor; how can you be afraid of things that wish to hurt you when your lifemeter is always full?

Kudos to Day One for making the Replicas in FEAR 3 look more like the clones we know from the first game...

The cover system and regenerative health system combo also has an impact on the gameplay. Sure, the AI does flank. Sure, it throws grenades, vaults over obstructions to get away from you, runs from one crate to another, takes cover, and pops in and out of it. However, the AI also takes advantage of the cover system.

This is supposed to be good right?

In a way yes, it does show that the AI is competent. However, throw in the fact that you have regenerative health and they do not makes every firefight one-sided. I would have rather that Day One mixed and matched their AI behavior---some might doggedly seek cover, while some might actively run from cover to cover and advance on your position. This combination would have made for effective fireteams that shower you with suppressing fire while their teammates slowly advance to your location. The regenerative system would have been rendered weaker. Still useful, but weaker.

As it is, the firefights in FEAR 3 boil down to “shoot-take cover to regen-shoot again” affairs. Don’t get me wrong, the game IS difficult---difficult enough that I would say this is the ONLY FEAR game that makes the use of SloMo a necessity (another high point for the developers by the way)---but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that the AI is immensely outclassed in every firefight.

Take note however that some players have launched a handful of “why is this game so difficult?” threads, making this aspect a very subjective point.

The game’s graphics isn’t bad but it’s not something that would win awards. There are levels that exhibit good texturing (like the corridors of brick walls and that Rio de Janeiro level) but most of the game has this flat feel to it; walls and floors for the most part look too smooth. This flatness even becomes more apparent in the cutscenes where the characters look almost like something Pixar would have rendered. Paxton Fettel looked more dangerous in the first game. To the developers' credit though, the Rio and the prison levels were some of the most impressive I’ve seen. I just wish the developers created more of those; the later levels really just didn’t present the AI with flanking options. Those that did were able to pull it off only because of the large numbers of mall booths, conveyor belts, and crates---things that don’t make for diverse levels.

...while a thumbs-down is in order for this mech, which brings back memories of Harmony Gold .

FEAR 3 also has the most innovative suite of 4-player multiplayer modes and they’re great fun. These are:

  • F***ing Run --- An aptly named mode, this has players running from a massive cloud wall that kills anything it touches. The catch (of course) is that the players have to run through a gauntlet of enemies. If a player goes down, he can be revived by his teammates.
  • Soul Survivor --- Similar to other “zombie infection” games, this has players ganging up on one player who’s tasked with “turning” the other players. Of course, there are also AI-controlled baddies running around.
  • Soul King --- A deathmatch-style mode that has players killing other players and AI-controlled soldiers alike for possession of souls. The player with the most souls at the end of the time limit wins. The catch is that if you are killed, you will drop the souls you’ve collected, making the last minutes of a match a hectic, tense experience.
  • Contractions --- A 20-wave survival mode that has players barricading a safe house. Each successive wave brings in more difficult enemies. After each wave, players can go out and forage for ammunition and guns. They also have to fix the barricades lest the next wave find weak points that they can storm through.
Me and several Armacham Elite friends

Unfortunately, as of this time of writing, I have---along with more than a handful of players----time and again experienced problem with F***ing Run and Soul Survivor---the game runs into a “Game Cannot be Launched. Players do not have the required content” error. Seeing that this game doesn’t have a DLC yet, this is clearly a bug.

The multiplayer matchmaking also doesn’t work for some players. It can easily be circumvented though by joining a FEAR 3 Steam group and doing manual invites. The community is friendly enough so this shouldn’t be a problem.

FEAR 3 is a bundle of hits and misses. This becomes apparent if you visit forums where large divides separate groups of fans. One one side there are those who praise the game for being one solid, awesome shooter that’s worth playing again and again (and it IS); on the other, there are those who lament the fact that the franchise has taken a nosedive where the narrative and the horror aspects are concerned.

Your enjoyment of the game depends on which side you mostly gravitate towards and if you’re willing to ignore its bugs and shortcomings. As it is, FEAR 3 is still one satisfying first-person shooter that’s worth taking a look.


Tilt: 7.0 - Connectivity issues hurt the game. The FEAR universe is a good place to romp in and kick butt.

Graphics: 7.0 - Bland (but not abysmal) graphics in most of the game's levels impairs the game's aesthetics; some of the textures (the zombies for instance) are downright terrible.

Audio: 8.0 - Though the music of the original FEAR is going to be missed by many, the sfx for the weapons are great.

Gameplay: 8.5 - FEAR 3 is one rock-solid shooter.

Replayability: 9.0 - Innovative multiplayer modes ensure that you'll keep this in your hard drive for several weeks, if not months.

Score: 7.9

>>>Click here to