Shooter Games and Where I Stand

I’ll confess… I love the first-person shooter (abbreviated with FPS) games a little more than RPG’s some days because of the fact that when I score a kill, I feel great from hunting my opponent down in game. I was schooled a little with Doom 2 and LAN games on the middle school’s networks… But my “formal” training was during the days of Quake (1996) when my friends would hijack my junior high (9th and 10th) school’s LAN just for us to play when we blazed through our school work faster than our inept peers in computer classes. This would even continue through my senior high (11th and 12th) years  when I was in AP Computer Science class as well.

Through out the “training” I’d still get into the games that were coming out for home consumption. I know soon after Quake came out, I’d venture onwards. Quake 2, Blood, Hexen, Hexen 2, and then the Half Life series. When people began to modify the Half Life engine and came up with Counter-Strike, it got my attention. A game that was tactical and challenging in the FPS genre. For once, I couldn’t take the same tactics like I did with Quake and Quake 2 of going bat-shit insane. It make me a more tactful shooter fan… Then Unreal Tournament (1999) entered my world and made arcade shooters refreshing. It wouldn’t be until about late 2002 that my PC couldn’t keep up with PC gaming anymore. I lamented that day… I would then have my many years of Guild Wars to keep my sanity around, but that’s another story.

Then April 2009 hit and I built my gaming machine, Byakko. I would finally have a machine that was strong enough to play my Source powered games without choking on itself. From there… I began exploring what the new era of gaming had to offer me. The funny thing is… Nowadays, shooters have more cooperative modes than they did in the past. However… the fight over arcade style and realism style have still remained with even some blending. I know my initial dive would be Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead. Eventually… My dear friend Ivy (not my staff/guest editor, oddly) had said I needed to give Call of Duty a try, cause she’s rather fanatical about the franchise… So Ebongrey had surprised me one day with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and I admit… I was rather charmed by the tactical, yet arcade-style game play. Granted, military war simulations should be a little more tighter with tactics… but sometimes the casual part makes it nice for days you don’t want to get too involved in. While the Left 4 Dead franchise focuses on tactical gameplay with cooperative tactics (be you human or zombie team) and Team Fortress more on the arcade side. I sought for more. Borderlands caught my eye as a fun from merging the great part of an MMO (“phat lewtzing” or items) with a FPS game… Which brings to the main point: Where do I, Zero, stand on shooter games?

My dear friend Ersatz a while back had got me into Bioshock as he realized I do appreciate a good story. I spent close to probably 20 – 30 hours in Bioshock just absorbing story and finding secret weapon upgrade stations via the Fontaine Futuristics “Power to the People” machines. When Bioshock 2 came out this past February 9th, I played the ever living hell out of it. Sure, it took me 28 hours to complete the story, but probably one of the best stories I have ever played. The multiplayer is interesting, but as 2K had made a big disclaimer of that portion of the game was more bonus material than their primary directive. The short-comings of the multiplayer are (in my opinion) the flawed controls for PC. The story modes control set-up is great! It all makes sense… yet on the multiplayer one, they didn’t let you use those, it’s completely  messed up. If you have a gaming mouse that has side buttons for your thumb and loved assigning commands in Bioshock 2’s story mode, the rude wake up call… Not usable in multiplayer. The mouse wheel is also not assigned by default to the duty of cycling through weapons like in story mode, but it’s designated to a key. The final issue is that servers and matchmaking are peer to peer while using the Games for Windows Live system to “match” you to appropriate players. For the fun moments I have had in it… It’s a refreshing arcade style shooter on the multiplayer side of the coin.

On the tactical side… Battlefield: Bad Company 2 has really wet my whistle on that front. The Frostbite Engine that powers the game’s environments is really something. The big thing that has really sold me on the series is the destructible environments as well as being able to try everything in the PC Beta as an incentive to pre-ordering. The ability to use vehicles and perimeter defense weapons are there much like many of the other Battlefield games. However, for a modern combat FPS simulation, I have reason to believe that it may possibly usurp the throne from Call of Duty (6): Modern Warfare 2 on the PC from the fact that there is a dedicated development team for PC. Rather than running the game from the xbox 360 version through an XNA translator and coming back out as a regurgitated console port for PC… The PC version of BC2 is its own animal compared to its console cousin. I like the 4 classes and how there are proper ways to use them. The whole ideal that kills don’t make a player and even tactical assists (healing, spotting, repairing) still score you points is great! Should EA and DICE really work hard to keep BC2 tight and clean, this may be the game that upsets Activision’s hold on the PC gaming realm with Modern Warfare 2. I think Hip Hop Gamer’s show (episode here) said it best…

I will say that Alien vs Predator gets an honorable mention, but I will shoot the technicality that you must have some aptitude for the movie realms to love it.

For my official stance on shooters… I do enjoy arcade style “twitch shooters” as well as the tactical side. I will say that the future of shooter games will really depend on how publishers market the games and as well as remix gaming mechanics.

Current Active Shooter Game Cycle: Battlefield: Bad Company 2 beta, Bioshock 2, Call of Duty: World at War, Left 4 Dead 2, Team Fortress 2

Retrospective: Byakko – Gaming PC

Last night, my roommate Nick came by my room to tell me “I spent a little over a grand, but dude, I am happy with the machine! Does everything I want/need and I love it!” So it got me thinking… How much have I put into Byakko?

I would like to reflect and see how much I have put into my build with the 1 year birthday of Byakko coming soon (4/25/2009). I do want to make mention that my girlfriend has helped build Byakko in her own way as well. So essence, even she has helped build the beast as well.

Let’s rebuild the part list… The prices listed are the original MSRP (aka, what the manufacturer wants you to buy it for) from Amazon. This list does not account for some of the sale prices I nabbed (i.e. – $90 for my 1.5TB Seagate Barracuda) or from components gifted from my loving girlfriend Ebongrey.

$60 – Biostar MCP6P M2+ microATX Mainboard (nVidia nForce 430)
$65 – Student Edition of Windows 7 Professional
$100 – AMD x64 Phenom 9500+ Quad-Core 2.2Ghz processor
$30 – Ultra 450w power source (out of production)
$60 – OCZ ReaperX HPC 4GB DDR2 1066 RAM kit (2x 2GB sticks, discontinued)
$200 – 1.5TB Seagate Barracuda 5,900 RPM SATA 3.0 Hard Drive
$48 – Lite-On DVD+/-RW 24x burner drive
$142 – XFX GeForce GTS 250 512mb GDDR3
$70 – Netgear WG311T Super-G (108 Mbits/sec) Atheros 802.11b/g wireless LAN card
$40 – Thermaltake Wings RS 100 Piano Black case
$200 – Logitech G19 gaming keyboard
$70 – Logitech G500 Laser gaming mouse
$80 – Logitech G13 Advance Gameboard
$65 – Microsoft xbox 360 Wireless Controller + Receiver
$40 – Razer eXactMat Xspeed + eXactRest
$162 – Samsung SyncMaster 2033SW 20″ Wide LCD 16:9 aspect ratio monitor
$60 – Logitech Notebook Premium Headset
$0 – Altec Lansing “Soundworks 4.1” series speakers (discontinued circa 1999)
Grand Total: $1,492 (Actual paid prices and estimated price of parts gifted to me totals roughly $1,200, $292 in savings)

For a slightly better, yet closely similar configuration from HP right now…
System: HP HPE-180t
Windows 7 Professional
Intel Core i7-920 (2.66GHz quad-core)
1.5TB 7200 rpm SATA 3Gb/s hard drive
1GB ATI Radeon HD 4650
LightScribe 16X max. DVD+/-R/RW SuperMulti drive
Wireless-N LAN card
HP 2159m 21.5-inch 16:9 Full HD Widescreen Monitor
Grand Total: $1,424.98

Take note… that with the HP, some of the parts… you don’t know who manufactured them. For all you know, it could be from the reject parts bin from no-name manufacturer. Also… the HP monitor has a 3,000:1 contrast ratio versus my Samsung producing a dynamic 15,000:1 ratio for crisper colors in games, which for a gamer who loves pretty colors or art/production media folks, that’s pretty damn important. Sure, it does have a leg up on some things, but what happens when you want/need to upgrade? Remember the $292 I saved from my build? I now have that to put towards upgrades down the line. What can $292 get me? Let’s observe my options:

Budget: $292 (prices based off of Newegg)
Full refresh build
AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition (3.4 GHz quad-core), ASUS M4A78T-E (790GX board), Corsair 750TX (750 watt power supply), Radeon HD 5870, Corsair 4GB (2x 2GB) DDR3 1333 RAM – $770
Completely new build reusing most of my parts, absolute extreme

Processor, budget graphic and power supply upgrade
AMD Phenom II X4 945 Deneb 3.0GHz quad-core, Radeon HD 5770, and a Corsair 750TX – $456
$164 additional needed to budget

Mainboard, power supply, processor upgrade
AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition (3.4 GHz quad-core), ASUS M4A78T-E (790GX board), Corsair 750TX (750 watt power supply) – $440
$148 additional needed to budget

Power supply, Nvidia-loyal graphic card upgrade
BFG Tech GeForce GTX 260 OCX MAXCORE 55 896MB GDDR3 (graphics), Corsair 750TX (power supply) – $340
$48 additional needed to budget

Alternate graphic card and power supply upgrade
Radeon HD 5770 + Corsair 750TX – $290
$2 ahead of budget

Processor and power supply upgrade
AMD Phenom II X4 945 Deneb 3.0GHz quad-core and a Corsair 750TX – $286
$6 ahead of budget

As you can see… I can still come very ahead of the HP for value. Should I want to upgrade, I can! I don’t have to worry about things like voiding warranties just because I’d like to bump up performance… Another thing I can do without that fear is replacing the cooling fan for the processor. If the processor fan (in unfortunate circumstances) die and your machine is under warranty… I would assume you’re at the mercy of the manufacturer to mail in your machine, then hope to get it back quickly. For us DIY-builders, we can click off the old fan and bolt up a new one then get right back into things.

For those fearful of putting together a machine, don’t be afraid to! When you can learn how all the parts come together as well as how much you will save and potentially be able to use in upgrades… You’ll be thanking yourself when your machine lasts a little longer with parts you know and trust than the mystery bin parts. It’s almost like being able to make lasagna at home with good cuts of ground beef from the butcher or getting mystery meat from the frozen box version. Just something for you all to think on.