Catching a Global Offensive

For the last 10 years or so I have been playing a couple of deathmatch maps on Counter Strike: Source. I have not been much of a serious CS player, shooting frantically and laughing at the ridiculousness of spawning and seeing your previous body falling in front of you is dumb fun. Yet, a few weeks ago, I  finally bought a copy of Counter Strike: Global Offensive (the follow up to CS: Source that came out in 2012) for the PC during Steam’s Summer sale, and I have not stopped playing it since then.

Although the game released about five years ago, the game still has the same simple, pick up and play design of its predecessors: a Counter Terrorist team tries to thwart the Terrorist team from planting and detonating a bomb within a time limit, either team will succeed if the bomb is planted/disarmed, or a team kills off all of the members of it’s opposition within the time limit will win. Simple concept, yet very difficult to accomplish. Each team has different (yet similar) weapons in its arsenal to deploy, all with unique bullet spray and all rendered realistically (even wear and tear!) to match their real life counterparts.

The keyboard and mouse control scheme of CS:GO has not changed much at all since the first iteration of the game, and that is a good thing. The original CS was my first experience playing on a k&m combo, back then it immediately made sense, and still feels as simple and solid as before. It is rare on a console controller for me to pull of a quick head shot on an enemy player, but on this particular control scheme (mouse cursor to aim, “wasd” keys for movement), it becomes a sort of muscle memory.The tight controls allow for faster reaction times and more accurate shots all around, the more I play, the better I have become at shooting.

Over the years, CS has had a washed out semi-realistic approach to its characters and environments, CS:GO does not change that style, which makes it instantly feel familiar but has drastically improved on its graphical capability. It first struck me when (even on my budget PC) the game hit me visual details I had not seen in a game before. An example of this is your character’s gloves, you can see the fading of colors, scratches and general worn-in parts. The same goes for the weapons you purchase in the game, or you pick up from someone’s body, there are new to lightly worn to heavily worn in (and everything in between) fire arms which add to the realism, but also go a long way in making you feel immersed in the game’s rugged world.

Online, CS:GO is as harsh and rough as the environments it portrays. The skill level of players ranges from first timers to hardcore veterans that can shoot a nickle off an oil drum from 100 yards, with a Glock. In quickplay and deathmatch modes the game seems to throw all of these types of players together, while the game does seem to distribute the player skills evenly, it still can lead to some unbalanced gameplay. I have been in matches where one player can pick off half of the opposing team in a couple minutes, due to knowledge of the map, accuracy of shooting, weapon selection, and better use of cover. Though some games can be frustrating, the majority of the matches I have experienced in the last few weeks have resulted in my skills going up significantly, and have been able to move up in ranks at the end of each round. Another thing to note here, is the online community of CS:GO, and how it can very from very chill, laid back, and friendly, to absolute racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, just downright toxic. Although these bad types are not a majority of the players in the game, they are a loud obnoxious bunch that can ruin a top notch gaming experience like CS:GO. Please feel free to mute them, block them and report them. I do not have the time to try to discuss anything with these types of people, like a malignant growth, the best thing to do is just cut it out of your life and live without this bullshit.

There is still much to say about Counter Strike: Global Offensive (the drop boxes with loot that you cannot open unless you purchase a key with real money is absolute garbage) but I have yet to try every single game play mode, this includes the massively popular Competitive mode. Like Counter Strike and Counter Strike: Source, I can already tell I will be playing this for many years to come, the main difference being that it offers much more than its predecessors, and encourages you to try it all. CS:GO is an inexpesive game ($15 as of this writing) so there is really no excuse to not give it a try and learn what so many players have known for many years, this is a fucking great game.

 

Unfuck Your Game Enjoyment

As a PC player I’ve come to love indie games. I’ve grown older and so has my taste of games. I am leaning more about independent games than typical big budget games, not because they’re bad by default, it’s because they so vehemently stick to the same pattern and formula. Rarely does a big title try to do anything else, instead they focus on pushing out the same game year after year. It’s almost impressive, dredging shit together and forcing it into consumers like some Machiavellian reverse-enema. I laud the audacity these studios have. It’s fucking impeccably shameless, between brazen gimmicks and the ever-growing DLC markets, paid updates, and broken launches I’ve just given up hope for big games bouncing back. Occasionally a title comes around that makes my desk jump from the throbbing erection, but that’s neither here nor there.

In such a grim landscape I’ve pondered whether I’ve “outgrown” gaming, or simply I’ve found nothing to play. It turns out it’s the latter, and as I’ve delved into the PC Indie scene it’s been clear to me. I just needed something different, something else. Whether or not the game is even good is hardly a problem for me. I take them at face value and nothing more or less (unless the developer promises things that goads me into purchasing it and I end up regretting it.) I’m pretty thorough as a critic of big titles, so why do I give these titles more slack? Because I know what I’m getting into with them. I expect bugs, glitches and the like. I’m not expecting fit and finish to be proper. I simply hold the developers to what they say, and that works for this type of game.

Some titles are just boring in concept but turn out to be challenging and fun. A great example of that is “Papers, Please.” In Papers, Please you work in a border-crossing of a made-up totally-not-Soviet-Union country and check papers to make sure people are valid to enter or not. It can be heart-wrenching and tough to make some of those decisions. A husband and wife are immigrating from a wartorn country, but only the husband’s papers are valid. What do you do?  It’s fun and simple and it works. I didn’t expect it to do my taxes for me. Recently, I finished “Refunct”. It was one of those games I did not know I had, but checked it out, downloaded it, and beat it in less than an hour. It was enjoyable and pretty to zone out to for the time being, and I recommend it for someone looking for a free-roaming fun game with no loose conditions. Just explore and collect stuff in a relaxing and pretty environment. Are you catching the pattern? They’re not promising the world, they simply state what they are and prove it in the gameplay.

Big studios break promises to consumers so consistently I’m stunned there’s not a proper verb for it. (I vote for “Molyneuxing” after Peter Molyneux, one of the worst offenders.) Call of Duty has been pumping out virtually the same game for years. You’d think for $60 they’d at least try to make you feel pretty before they just rob you blind and leave you in an alleyway. These games can’t be held to an “anything goes” grading scale when they charge at the premium price point. If you go to an average grill-out you’re not expecting perfect steak, and that should satisfy you. However if you’re going to a steak-house known for quality meats, you expect that extra effort. It’s how things go. At this point it’s gotten so out-of-hand that I can’t enjoy any big release without doing a media blackout on it. What’s worse is even when I do manage to avoid the inevitable hype-train I still can’t enjoy the games, primarily as they are just run-of-the-mill in terms of story. There’s some exceptions in the last few years as there always will be, but more and more I find myself distrusting of big games more than ever.

After introspection I’ve come down from my wavering love of video games. I do not hate them, I do not dislike them, I simply dislike having reverse-enemas offered to me by grinning Capitalists that want my wallet. If you want my money, earn it. It’s just that simple. Until then I’ll continue supporting small-scale developer teams that actually give a fuck about what their consumers say.

AyYoAugury is a pudgy fuckboy with bad taste in music and long hair. Fucking degenerate. Reach out to him on twitter @AyYoAugury.

A PC Gamer’s Console Adventure

In November of 2016 I lost my home (and also the brand new PC I had just finished) to a massive wildfire. Not bitter about that at all. Man, the PC was sweet. Anyways, I digress. While working and living in hotels (renter’s insurance pays off, guys!) I secured a console. Even though I vastly prefer the PC, I wanted to play games and didn’t have the ability to go forward with a PC until I had a home again. Thus, I was left in a position I had not been in for years: Playstation, or Xbox?

PC before and after fire
AyYoAugury’s PC before and after Wildfire

I stayed awake for days, frantically searching on my phone. Sweat dripped down as anxiety over-rode me. I felt my hands were two rocks, blindly smashing the LED-screen like a caveman first discovering lewd cave-paintings. Sweaty and short-of-breath,  I settled on the PS4. What swayed my decision the informed reader asked? Why, it was dumb luck. I walked into a local reputable pawn shop, it was $200, and had two controllers as well as a few games. Perfect. I was excited to try out the exclusives I had missed for Playstation. One of the few things that pushed me that way, in hindsight, was that there were only a few Xbox exclusives I could name, and none interested me.

First Impressions:

I knew the transition would be rough to go to a console, but I underestimated how rough. I am used to certain aspects of PC that I took for granted. Multi-tasking is something I do so frequently on PC that I generally forget it’s rather difficult or impossible on a console to the degree I was used to. Didn’t help the hotel’s wifi was a solid 80kb/s, and no I’m not exaggerating. The first game I properly purchased with my PS4 was Battlefield 1, and shortly after Final Fantasy XV. I fucked up. You see, I purchased the disc for Battlefield 1, and a digital copy of Final Fantasy XV. I firmly reiterate, I fucked up. I did not know how slow the internet would be but it took me three days to download it. Lesson learned, and not the console’s fault, but it was a part of my experience.

As a segue I fucking love controllers. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t use them frequently on a PC set-up unless the game is broken without one (looking at you Dark Souls 1.) I’ve become used to the precision of a mouse and keyboard, and I felt truly clumsy with a controller in my hands. But like anything else, a few hours and it felt natural again. I have small hands and that particularly impacted my enjoyment of the PS4’s controller. I do remember how awkward the original Xbox controllers were, and am glad that form factor has dissipated into the dark canyon of hell where it belongs.

Graphics:

Hands down PC wins across the board but that’s not to say I was disappointed. In some games I felt they were a little off, as I’ve been running high-end computers for half of the last decade. Things like load-times did seem unbearably long, particularly Skyrim (of course I re-bought it for the fourth time.) That said, certain titles blew me away. Particularly, The Order: 1886. Though I thought the game itself was somewhere between a work meeting about something that doesn’t involve you but somehow was labelled mandatory, and a root canal, the seamless transitions between cutscenes and gameplay were phenomenal. I’ve yet to see that even on PC. The character models were pretty, the environment was beautiful. It’s worth playing just because it’s so damn pretty, but generic white grizzled protagonist does generic shit a la Steampunk.

Aside from that title though, the score is on PC’s side across the board. I use my console a lot, particularly with friends. That said, I found load times to be bad, distance rendering was nothing more than a few pixels, and that made it hard for some long-term fighting in Battlefield 1. Is this the end of the world? Nah, not really. Inconvenient for someone used to pixel-perfect firing like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive demands? Yes, absolutely.

Closing:

A beautiful, wise, intelligent, and powerful man once said “Playing on the PC can be a god damned chore.” He’s not wrong. I love PC, I firmly support it as the superior system to play games (with a big asterisk next to that, one that’s on fire, and neon, that screams “IF YOU HAVE THE MONEY, TIME, AND DESIRE TO TRY IT.”) Otherwise, a console is more than sufficient for most people, and that’s fine. Just because I prefer the color red doesn’t mean anyone else who doesn’t like red the most is fucked in the head. Except for people who like yellow. I question them.. Shady happy fuckers.

A PC is love/hate relationship. Sometimes you just want to start up a game and it’s got to update the game, update drivers, or verify the integrity of the game’s cache. This is something that’s just learned over time to deal with. At this point I pay enough attention to the games I play to know when updates go live, and I queue them overnight while I sleep. If I am not sleeping I’ll hang out on Twitch, play an offline game, watch YouTube, watch Netflix, read articles, check reddit, etc etc. I’ve become accustomed to be able to multi-task even with a low-end internet connection, but that’s not for everyone.

The biggest downside is the general knowledge of building a PC, maintaining it, and upgrading it. How do you know what’s an adequate part? You can budget build a console killer for the same price as any console if you want to run a lean system, but for the enthusiasts that might not cut it. I got into PC because I’ve struggled with the middle-zones for years, I’ve always been into the cutting edge, and it’s scratched that itch.

What did I learn?

Consoles are decent for the entry and middle-level gamers that neither have the time, energy, and/or money to get into PC gaming. Some of the exclusives are just downright awesome in their respective ways, but ultimately my heart is in PC, and remains that way after my foray.

AyYoAugury is a pudgy fuckboy with bad taste in music and long hair. Fucking degenerate. Reach out to him on twitter @AyYoAugury.

A Week with the Nintendo Switch

A week ago I got a tip that a big chain store was going to carry the Switch. Woke up way too damned early, did some laundry, and was able to snag the console and a copy of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. As soon as I got home, I opened up the box and set everything up. Since then, the Switch has surprised me and provided much entertainment, yet it also has changed the way I think about videogames.

Originally, I thought of the Switch as a mobile console that can be played like a home console on the TV, this turned out to not be the case at all. The Switch can be played on the go, but it is not mobile in the way I have thought of mobile consoles for the last 20+ years. It does not fit in any pocket easily, being that it is about 9 inches long and over 5 inches wide. Though well built, the Switch probably would not survive a fall unscathed, like say an old Game Boy, or even a 3DS. I’ve asked folks on Twitter if they do play the Switch, say on the bus or train while commuting, and it seems people do play this on public transport. They also recommended and insisted people use carrying cases and screen protectors, and I would completely agree with them.

Docking the Switch and playing on the screen for the first time was a pleasant experience. I had been playing Mario Kart on the Switch in handheld mode and had not tried to dock it for a few hours, when I did during a race in Mario Kart, I was floored. The clarity and graphics of the game on a 50 inch television slapped me hard! The game is gorgeous and of course, exciting and fun to play. Two player mode on the Switch joycons was something that had me concerned coming into the Switch, being that they are small and not really shaped in a conventional way. When I handed my girlfriend a joycon to play, her comment was “this is really small, can I really play with that?” The small control feels a bit strange at first, it takes a bit for my hands to adjust and realize there is nothing missing and that all of it is there. Once playing, all of that goes away, the diminutive joycons just work.

The amount of enjoyment I have gotten with the Switch right out of the box has been amazing. Handheld consoles are now obsolete compared to it. Sure, it does not fit in pants’ pocket, but it is still playable as one friend said, while waiting for laundry, or on a car ride. Two controls, no matter the size, means playing with someone on the couch is immediately available, and I have to admit, I do not want to go back to one controller console boxes after this. The ease of use and immediacy of play on the Nintendo Switch, whether at home or at work or on the bus, is something I have gotten used to and now want to experience with all of my gaming platforms. Playing Persona 5 on the PS4 feels great, Overwatch on the PC feels great, Pokemon on the 3DS feels great, but now I’ll always be thinking “What if I can take this with me? What if I can play this on a big screen easily? What if I can play this with friends right away?” It has been a week, and already I need everyone else to catch up.

Persona 5 Will Smother You With Style and You Will Enjoy It

Ten hours into Persona 5 and I am completely immersed in it’s world. It has been a very long time since a game has given me that feeling, and I am loving it. From the intro animation, to the in-game menu, this game oozes with style.

Presentation of this kind tells me right away that much care and time was spent by the developers on this game. Where else can you just stare at a menu screen and love switching between options and pages? They even made that shit fun to look at. This does not begin to get into the visual style of the game itself. The in game graphics and visuals of the game rival any animated film or show that is out there. Just thinking of it right now makes me smile with just how god damned cool it looks.

Another key factor to this game keeping a player entranced in its world is the music. I have always raved at Cowboy Bebop’s jazz/funk soundtrack, Persona 5 took that, cranked it up, and just rocks it. So far, the dynamics of the music have been spot on and complementary to the action or inaction happening on the screen. Even when the story takes on dark tones, the music does not seem out of place or inappropriate. I will probably buy this soundtrack, and suggest people check it out on youtube.

I wish I could post screenshots of this game, but I am not able to unfortunately, as publisher Sega has blocked players from being able to take screenshots or video of the game. But if you look around, you can find some online.

As I get further into it, I will write more about Persona 5. For now, this game is damned fun, if you’re into RPGs, go and try it out. If you are not into RPGs, then just listen to the amazing music.