Archive for the 'PC' Category

02
Jul
08

*SQUEE* OMFG. Yes, yes, Y-E-S.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

First heard about this over on Ctrl+Alt+Del. I’m very excited.

In other news, Blizzard officially announced Diablo III yesterday, which is also pretty exciting. I played the original Diablo pretty much non-stop for 6 months. I never finished Diablo II, but I was impressed with it. The Diablo formula seems pretty tried and true, and there are other games that have done well with it. My question is, what is Blizzard going to do to update the formula to make it fresh again? Point-and-click hack ‘n’ slash alone isn’t going to cut if for me these days. We’ll see.

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16
Nov
07

Review: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – Single Player Campaign

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls; I’ll begin by making a bold statement:

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is unequivocally the best game I have played this year. Better than BioShock, far better than Halo 3, better than Assassin’s Creed. This game will remind you why gaming is your hobby of choice.

I realize the year isn’t over yet. I also haven’t played Super Mario Galaxy, which is supposed to be a life-changing experience, and the beautiful jungles of Crysis await my arrival. Perhaps saving the universe from annihilation next week in Mass Effect will make the conflict in CoD4:MW seem insignificant.

As is, every other game I play this year will be measured against the herculean awesomeness of this game.

Awesome

CoD4:MW is a homecoming for the series. Developer Infinity Ward created the first two Call of Duty games. But Treyarch developed Call of Duty 3, released last year. That game was essentially a carbon-copy of Call of Duty 2 with added timed button presses. While Treyarch’s effort was certainly loyal to the franchise, the formula was getting stale. Call of Duty set a high bar for the “WWII-shooter,” but we’ve been killing Nazis since Wolfenstein 3D. It’s time to move on – a sentiment that’s been echoed elsewhere.

Infinity Ward took that sentiment to heart by moving CoD into the modern era, and into the Middle East, no less. There’s far less certainty in a this modern war than in America’s finest hour. In WWII, victory meant the defeat and surrender of Nazi Germany. Unless it’s an alternate reality game, the player knows the Nazis lose WWII, evil is defeated, and victory is achieved.

In the war that you’ll fight in CoD4:MW, much like our current situation in the Middle East, the definition of victory changes day to day. Infinity Ward fully realize the fear inherent in a situation where violent zealots wield nuclear weapons that can kill millions of people in an instant, and they use that to create palatable tension. Through it, they tell the story of the men whose job it is to protect not just the United States, but the entire world.

You read that correctly. They tell a story in this game, and a substantive one at that. In fact, I was more moved by the events of CoD4:MW than BioShock. Seriously. Maybe it’s because I guessed an important part of the plot twist in BioShock about an hour in, but there is a unexpectedly gut-wrenching scene in this game that had far more emotional impact than anything in 2KBoston’s tour de force.

The primary goal of the game is to restore peace to the Middle East by killing the extremist revolutionary Kahled Al-Asad, who has destabilized the region by killing the president of an important unnamed country.

In fact, as the opening credits roll, you’ll play as deposed President Al-Fulani as you’re helplessly transported to your execution at the hands of Al-Asad. The level ends as Al-Asad puts a gun in your face, on national television, and pulls the trigger.

You’ll play as four characters as you hunt Al-Asad and the men who aid him. Each character has different mission-types. As Sergeant John “Soap” MacTavish of the Special Air Service, you’ll play a number of covert-ops missions. You’ll also spend one gloriously difficult flashback in a ghillie suit as Soap’s superior officer Captain Price when he was a Lieutenant. These levels contrast nicely with the chaotic, high-intensity front-line missions of Sergeant Paul Jackson of the United States Marine Corps. You’ll also rain down death from an AC-130. This mission, while fun, becomes strangely eerie after a while. You’ll get an idea of how easy it must seem to kill a man when you can’t really see or hear him die.

The game play has remained essentially the same, not that it’s a bad thing. If you’ve played a CoD game in the past, you’ll immediately feel comfortable in this sequel. You’ll have your pick of two different main guns, flash bangs and frag grenades, and you can swing a knife for close-quarters combat. You can also use a grenade launcher, though its usefulness is somewhat less than you’d expect. The renewable health mechanism returns, as well, for better or worse. The physics are pretty much spot on, and the ability to shoot enemies through thin cover is a nice addition. A cover system, a la Gears of War, could have enhanced the experience. Regardless, finding cover still isn’t difficult. Environments aren’t as destructible or as interactive as I’d like, but most of the structures you’ll be moving through wouldn’t be destroyed by small arms fire.

Your teammates and the enemies’ AI is also well done. Flanking, lobbing grenades, and taking cover are done intelligently for both groups. One complaint is that the enemy AI can shoot you accurately from a hundred yards away, while it sometimes seems like your brothers in arms couldn’t hit the proverbial broad side of a barn. Speaking of grenades, they’ll kill you a lot. This is common in the Call of Duty franchise, but it seemed to happen even more frequently in this game than in previous titles.

It doesn’t hurt that the game looks incredible, too. The models and environments are all detailed, and there wasn’t a single moment in the game where I thought, “man, that just looks bad.”

All-in-all, the game feels seamless. The way you “woosh” down from the tactical satellite view, which takes the place of a standard loading screen, and into the action is a stroke of genius. It’s far less jarring than suddenly materializing into the into the level.

Some have complained about the duration of the campaign. It took me about 10 hours to complete on “Hardened” difficulty level (the second-most difficult setting), but it was some of the most intense play I have ever experienced. The difficulty was evenly scaled over the course of the campaign, and only became frustrating once or twice. It only made it more satisfying when I finally got it right.

When the credits started rolling, I felt physically drained. I sat back in my chair, suddenly realizing how rigidly I’d been sitting in my chair. At the end of BioShock I felt disappointed, so anticlimactic was the final act. This game had kept me on the edge the whole time. I watched the credits, listening to the humorously bad rap song that accompanies them. Then, I realized there was a surprise. I don’t want to ruin it for anyone, but if you haven’t sat through to the end of the credits, do so. You’re missing out on something special.

I think the most gratifying part of finishing the campaign is that there’s still so much more to the game. I haven’t even touched the multiplayer yet, which I hear is outstanding. There’s the Arcade Mode to play as well, which gives you two additional game-play modes.

I can’t think of anything truly negative to say about the game that wouldn’t be nitpicking. There are a lot of titles out there demanding your time and money this holiday season. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare should definitely make the cut.

[rating:5/5]

15
Nov
07

You want to play Crysis, do you? Hope you’re willing to sell your firstborn…

So, you’ve decided you’re tired of playing Wolfenstein 3D and you’re finally ready to take a step up to a next generation game.

Chances are you’ve heard about a little game called Crysis, which promises to be one of the most graphically demanding titles to hit any platform. It’s set in the tropical jungles of Korea, a part of which has been mysteriously flash frozen. Problem is, you’re going to need some serious hardware to render every last flower and blade of grass in Crytek’s latest opus.

Let’s start by taking a look at the system requirements for Crysis:

Type of hardware: Minimum System Requirement Recommended System Requirement
CPU Intel Pentium 4 2.8 GHz (3.2 GHz for Vista), Intel Core 2 2.0 GHz (2.2 GHz for Vista), AMD Athlon 2800+ (3200+ for Vista) or better Intel Core 2 Duo, AMD Athlon X2 or better
RAM 1.0 GB (1.5 GB for Vista) 1.5 GB
VRAM 256 MB of Graphics Memory 512 MB of Graphics Memory
Available Hard Drive Space 12 GB 12 GB
Sound Card DirectX 9.0c Compatible DirectX 9.0c Compatible
Optical Disc Drive Type DVD-ROM DVD-ROM
Operating System Windows XP or Vista Windows XP or Vista
DirectX Version DirectX 9.0c or DirectX 10 DirectX 9.0c or DirectX 10

Even the minimum system requirements are pretty beastly, and that’s to play the game at its lowest settings.

I can tell you from playing the single player demo released late last month that the lowest settings won’t cut it for any but the least picky gamers. Moreover, meeting the recommended system requirements doesn’t mean you’ll be able to run the game on its highest settings.

I’m going to give you the breakdown for three different systems, built from the ground up, with three different levels of Crysis readiness.

Good for Everyone

In the interest of convenience, I decided to standardize the motherboard for this project.

I settled on the ABIT IP35 Pro, which retails for about $185. It has two PCI-E x16 slots for dual video cards, if you decide to go that route, and it can support up to 8 gigabytes of RAM. This may seem a little pricy, and I understand there are a number of different factors when it comes to choosing the motherboard that’s right for you. But this is a very solid board that’s somewhat future-proofed for the next inevitable upgrade to your system. Besides, the motherboard is the backbone of your system; you don’t want to skimp on this component.

Because I decided to standardize the motherboard, I’m only recommending Intel-brand processors. If you’d like to use an AMD CPU, I’m definitely not against that; however, Intel currently has better high-end processors, so that’s the reason I went that route.

I also decided not to give our opinion about a particular case, because we feel that’s primarily an aesthetic choice. However, I recommend at least a mid-size tower that has good fan-powered ventilation. The latest video cards are rather large, so you’ll want to make sure they fit inside your case.

So, first up is a machine for those of you who want to play Crysis on a budget.

The Budget Box

Component type Entry-level Upgrade
Power Supply Rosewill RP500-2 ATX12V v2.01 500W Power Supply – $45 Rosewill RP600V2-S-SL 600W SLI Ready-ATX12V V2.01 Power Supply – $60
CPU Intel Pentium 4 631 Cedar Mill 3.0GHz – $75 Intel Dual-Core E2180 Allendale 2.0GHz – $90
RAM CORSAIR ValueSelect 1GB (2 x 512MB) 240-Pin DDR2 – $27 CORSAIR XMS2 1GB (2 x 512MB) 240-Pin DDR2 – $66
Video Card NVIDIA GeForce 7600GT 256 MB GDDR3 PCI-E x16 – $90 NVIDIA GeForce 8600GT 256 MB GDDR3 PCI-E x16 – $140
Hard Drive Western Digital Caviar SE WD800JD 80GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s – $43 Western Digital Caviar SE WD1600AAJS 160GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s – $50
Sound Card Motherboard sound Motherboard sound
Optical Disk Drive ASUS 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-ROM SATA – $20 Samsung SH-S203B 20X DVD Writer – $35
Operating System Windows XP Home – $195 Windows XP Pro – $287
DirectX Version DirectX 9.0c DirectX 9.0c
Total price $495 $728

Either one of these systems will give you good performance for all of your basic applications and older and recent games, and get you playing Crysis on its lowest settings. The Allendale processor gets you into the dual-core generation at a bargain price. Although newer, faster, dual-core processors aren’t much more expensive.

You’ll probably be okay with the Corsair ValueSelect RAM since you won’t be doing much over-clocking with this system. However, the better timings on the premium RAM may give you a slight performance boost.

As far as sound cards go, the onboard sound for most motherboards is pretty good these days. Unless you want to plunk down for a higher-end sound card, I’d stick with the cheapest option: not buying one at all.

Your motivation for getting the latest generation video card is if you’re planning on upgrading to Windows Vista sometime soon and you don’t want to buy a DirectX 10 compatible card then. Plus, you can add another of the 8600GTs in SLI-mode for a significant performance boost down the road. If you’re planning on doing that, pick up the beefier power supply, too.

Remember that upgrading to Vista will also require upgrading your RAM to at least 2GB.

Now let’s bump up to the recommended settings.

The Workhorse

Component type Entry-level Upgrade
Power Supply Rosewill RP600V2-S-SL 600W SLI Ready-ATX12V V2.01 – $60 OCZ GameXStream OCZ700GXSSLI ATX12V 700W – $150
CPU

 

Intel Core 2 Duo E4500 Allendale 2.2GHz – $128 Intel Core 2 Duo E6550 Conroe 2.33GHz  – $170
RAM Kingston 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 667 (PC2 5300) – $50 G.Skill 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) – $55
Video Card Radeon HD 2900PRO 512MB 512-bit GDDR3 PCI-E x16 – $249 NVIDIA 8800 GTS 640MB 320-bit GDDR3 PCI-E x16 – $400
Hard Drive Western Digital Caviar SE WD1600AAJS 160GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s – $50 Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD3200AAKS 320GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s – $80
Sound Card Motherboard sound Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeGamer – $81
Optical Disk Drive ASUS 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-ROM SATA – $20 Samsung SH-S203B 20X DVD Writer – $35
Operating System Windows XP Pro – $287 Windows Vista Ultimate – $320
DirectX Version DirectX 9.0c DirectX 10
Total price $854 $1,291

The “entry-level” specifications laid out above result in a very nice machine, and should get you up to the medium graphics settings in Crysis with no issue. The “upgrade” specifications are all you’ll need to play Crysis somewhere between medium and high settings and almost any other current game on higher settings.

The upgraded system sports a processor with a larger L2-cache; double that of the entry-level system. This, plus the faster RAM, translates into faster data access.

The raw memory boost you gain by choosing the NVIDIA card likewise gives you a boost. Though, better drivers for the Radeon will narrow that gap. Again, if you’re planning on adding a second video card in the future, be sure to take the upgraded power supply. You’ll most certainly need it for running the high-end video cards in SLI or Crossfire.

A note about Windows Vista: although drivers for both video cards have improved, Windows XP is still delivering faster frame rates across the board. You’ll miss out on any DirectX 10 effects, but development for the new platform isn’t very far along at this point. That means you probably won’t miss much by not upgrading to Vista. Windows XP is still the operating system of choice for gamers.

The Sound Blaster card is completely optional, as well. The EAX effects offered by these cards result in a much fuller surround sound experience, best experienced with headphones. But if you want to save some dough (and chances are you do), skip it and stick with the onboard sound.

Finally, we come to a machine that should allow you to play Crysis on its highest settings. I essentially specced it out to have the most rediculous gear I could find. Be warned, the total price of this monster is not for the faint of heart, or the light in cash flow.

The Behemoth

Component type Entry-level Upgrade
Power Supply Silverstone ST1000 ATX12V / EPS12V 1000W – $275 Thermaltake Toughpower W0156RU ATX12V / EPS12V 1200W – $370
CPU Intel Core 2 Duo E6850 Conroe 3.0GHz Dual Core- $280 Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 3.0GHz  Quad Core – $1,100
RAM G.Skill 4GB(2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) – $145 2x G.SKILL 4GB(2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) – $290
Video Card 2x NVIDIA 8800 GTX 768MB 384-bit GDDR3 PCI-E x16 – $1,100 2x NVIDIA 8800 Ultra 768MB 384-bit GDDR3 PCI-E x16 – $1,400
Hard Drive Western Digital Raptor WD740ADFD 74GB 10,000 RPM SATA150 – $150 2x Western Digital Raptor WD1500ADFD 150GB 10,000 RPM SATA150 – $180
Sound Card Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeGamer – $81 Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeGamer – $81
Optical Disk Drive Samsung SH-S203B 20X DVD Writer – $35 Samsung SH-S203B 20X DVD Writer – $35
Operating System Windows Vista Ultimate – $320 Windows Vista Ultimate – $320
DirectX Version DirectX 10 DirectX 10
Total price $2,386 $3,956

There’s very little that needs to be said about these two systems – they both kick all kinds of ass and to say they’re future-proof is a serious understatement.

In fact, the components included in the “upgrade” column can’t even be used to their full potential. Anything more than 4 GB of RAM is wasted in 32-bit Windows, and the quad core processor screams excess, since most applications aren’t even utilizing dual core processors to their full potential. The gains with the 8800 Ultras over the 8800 GTXs will also be negligible.

As much fun as it is to see what you can do if money is no object, the nearly $4,000 dollar system we priced out is, to put it mildly, overkill.

Wrap Up

Crysis is a fantastic looking game, and first-person shooter fans are in for a real treat… if they have the gear to run the monstrously sophisticated graphics engine.

Remember, too, that you don’t have to build a system from the ground up if you’ve played more recent games. If you have, chances are you’re system has some components that will serve you just fine, e.g., your hard drive, your motherboard, and your processor.

Upgrading your video card and your RAM alone can be a pricey but extraordinarily valuable investment. Just watch out for recommended power supply wattages when upgrading your video card and you should be fine.

I’ll see you in the jungle!

I’m definitely looking for commentary on this piece – lemme know what you guys think about the system requirements and the cost of the equipment you’d need to run this game. Is Crytek taking it too far? Or is this just the price you pay for next-gen gaming?

13
Nov
07

First Impressions: Gears of War – PC

So, I just started into Gears of War on the PC. I’ve played through the campaign of GoW on X360 twice already: once alone, once with a friend. I had an awesome experience both times through. I never really played the multiplayer component, primarily because I’m a PC gamer at heart and I think paying 50 bucks a year to play shooters online seems like a ripoff. I’m even starting to think monthly fees for MMOs are kind of rediculous; but, they are most definitely for shooters that don’t provide regular content updates. Also, Xbox Live is full of douche bags.

This is all beside the point.

I really enjoy the way the control scheme has been adapted for us keyboard/mouse loyalists. I’ve only changed one of the defaults so far – I changed the key used for entering cover and roadie running to be left shift instead of space bar. It just felt more natural to me. The difficulty level seems a bit higher for the Windows version of the game, too, perhaps due to increased accuracy from aiming with the mouse. Maybe I’m just rusty though. To boot, the game looks absolutely gorgeous; even better than it does on X360.

But it’s not all good times, unfortunately.

Now, I don’t have a state of the art box, but I’m pretty well equiped. (Insert juvenile jokes, here) Despite my dual-core Opteron 180 and my 8800 GTS 640MB and my 2 GB of system RAM and the fact I’m running XP on a nearly empty, freshly defragged hard drive, I’m getting major stuttering issues and framerate drops, even with V-Sync turned off.

All I have to say is:

FIX IT

There’s no reason I should be having these troubles on my rig, with the game at medium-high settings. I can run the Crysis single-player demo at higher frame rates on medium-high settings. I really, really want to play the Brumak level. But as is, the game is just too choppy.

It’s not like I don’t have other games to play, but come on, Epic. GoW is an experience I want to relive . Just not as a slide show.




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